Members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) could be seen parachuting towards Shuswap Lake on Oct. 13.
The Force’s 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron visited the lake for a training exercise with Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) Shuswap Station 106 members that day.
Rob Sutherland, RCMSAR Shuswap Station 106 leader, said both of the station’s fast-response vessels were deployed for the exercise. The RCAF sent a C-115 Buffalo fixed wing search and rescue aircraft, its crew and three search and rescue technicians and their specialized equipment for the practice mission, which took place near Annis Bay.
The exercise simulated two boats crashing into each other, causing three serious injuries, a fuel spill, and both boats to take on water, said Sutherland. Part of the scenario included Station 106 being unable to respond due to other search and rescue tasks, and RCAF’s Buffalo aircraft being in the area and tasked to the rescue.
The training exercise began with RCAF attempting to find the incident location through spotty information from a 911 call, said Sutherland. Once the location was found, the RCAF crew completed fly-bys to assess the situation. When they saw the simulated fuel spill, it meant they could not use dye markers to mark the scene and assess drift in the area.
Instead, said Sutherland, the crew used coloured streamers for that task; then, they dropped a handheld radio on a 600-foot rope to one of the crashed vessels to establish contact. Through the radio, the crew found out the state of the crashed vessels and how many casualties were on board.
Since both vessels were taking on water, two life rafts were deployed; and since the casualties’ injuries were serious, three search and rescue technicians parachuted into the 15 C water. After a short swim, the technicians boarded the vessel with casualties and provided first aid, saving them, said Sutherland. When an RCMSAR vessel arrived to evacuate the casualties, the training mission was complete.
“What a fantastic opportunity this was for our Shuswap Station 106,” said Sutherland. “If this scenario ever occurred for real, we are now fully versed in the RCAF procedures and protocols.”