Cranberry and North Cedar volunteer fire departments, Nanaimo Search and Rescue and B.C. Ambulance Service responded to Nanaimo River to retrieve the victim of a near-drowning Tuesday. (Nanaimo News Bulletin file)

Rope rescue required after man falls into Nanaimo River

Two dozen emergency responders conduct two-hour-long technical rope rescue

A two-hour-long technical rope rescue was required to retrieve a man who was taken to hospital after he fell into the Nanaimo River.

Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department responded to a swimming hole near the end of Riverbend Road, which runs off of Spruston Road south of Nanaimo shortly after noon Tuesday, July 21, when firefighters were alerted to a possible near-drowning.

According to Ron Gueulette, Cranberry fire chief, the victim, a young man, slipped off a rock and was submerged underwater for about 30 seconds before he was rescued by a woman swimming nearby.

Gueulette said the man did not strike his head when he fell in the water and was not certain what caused him to fall in the first place.

“He slipped off the rock. Whether he had a medical emergency or not, I’m not sure, but there was a woman swimming with him and she actually saw him go under and pulled him out right away,” Gueulette said. “He’s pretty lucky.”

Gueulette said an off-duty nurse came from the other side of the river to assist with reviving the man until emergency crews arrived.

The area where the incident occurred is surrounded by steep terrain. Gueulette estimated two dozen personnel from B.C. Ambulance, Cranberry and North Cedar volunteer fire departments and Nanaimo Search and Rescue participated in what turned into a nearly two-hour-long technical rope rescue operation to bring the victim up from the river to an ambulance crew located at the end of Riverbend Road by about 2 p.m.

Gueulette said with power lines crossing above the location there was no access for a helicopter to help bring the man up from the river, which necessitated the rope rescue in the mid-day 27 C heat.

The victim was transported to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
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