Vancouver Island’s whitewater paddling community lost one of its own Tuesday with the death of Mackenzie Schafers of Nanaimo.
Schafers, 26, drowned after his kayak overturned on the Cameron River near Port Alberni, trapping him under a log.
His 37-year-old friend’s efforts to revive him failed. The friend then hiked to an area where he got cellphone service and called for help.
Both men were experienced kayakers, and Cpl. Jen Allan, Port Alberni RCMP spokeswoman, said there was nothing to suggest it was anything but a tragic accident.
The news of Schafers’s death shocked staff members at Strathcona Park Lodge, where Schafers first took his guide training program several years ago, and worked at times teaching the lodge’s Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program.
Jamie Boulding, lodge executive director, said the best word to describe “Mac” would be gregarious.
“Right off the bat you could sense a really outgoing, warm personality,” said Boulding. “He had an extensive network of friends and people were really fond of him.”
When working at the lodge, Schafers took on a number of roles from instructing in whitewater paddling and guiding, to equipment maintenance.
“Anytime he was interested in working for us we snapped him up because he was talented in any department,” said Boulding. “He was good with any age population. He was charming with the seniors and tons of fun with the kids.
“If you think over the last five or six years of the people who have worked for us, he would be right at the very top for quality of employee.”
Boulding said it was difficult to receive the news of Schafers’s death, gather those who knew him and talk about it.
The loss is equally significant for members of the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society, of which Schafers was a member.
Dave Prothero, society member, said Schafers’s death is a significant loss to those who knew him.
“He was a lovely man – very warm, very sharing with a joy of life,” he said.
Prothero knew Schafers for a number of years and spent time together paddling Island rivers, including the Puntledge and Oyster rivers near Courtenay.
“He had a passion for life overall, but really enjoyed being out on the water,” he said. “He was a good kayaker and had fun when he was out there.”
Schafers was also a graduate of the Green Building and Renewable Energy diploma program at Vancouver Island University.
– with files from Wawmeesh G. Hamilton