A couple from Rocky were rescued from the turbulent North Saskatchewan River by police on Sunday, after their watercraft capsized and they were struggling to stay afloat in the rapids.
Police happened to be doing a river patrol when they came across a man in the water, who was not wearing a life preserver. He was trying to cling to a woman, who was wearing an inflatable vest that was too large for her.
Staff Sgt. Mark Groves said it was just random luck that this couple was found. “It was just grace, being in the right place at the right time… often these things end in tragedy.”
Members of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP detachment had been conducting a pro-active patrol on the North Saskatchewan River in a police jet boat as part of the May Long Weekend Joint Task Force Operation.
At about 5:30 p.m., the three police officers were about to return to base but “decided to do one more corner, and they saw this raft that had capsized,” said Groves.
According to the police report, both individuals were floundering in the fast-moving water and currents and their safety was in jeopardy. The male was “desperately” trying to hang onto the female, who was being pulled under, due to his weight.
Fortunately, the woman was managing to keep her life preserver on and keep her face above water. RCMP members recognized “the peril faced by the submerged boaters” and quickly maneuvered the police boat into position and rescued both Rocky Mountain House residents.
Neither received serious injury, and alcohol was not a factor.
The RCMP is reminding recreational users of rivers and lakes to always wear approved life preservers which are properly fitted, and to familiarize themselves with the hazards of being on waterways.
This was the most potentially serious of all incidents that 100 task force members dealt with on the long weekend. Considering the beautiful weather and how many people were camping in the West Country, there were no fatalities — although some drivers did overturn off-road vehicles and sustain broken bones, said Groves.
It was an unusually safe three days, Groves added. But he noted most off-road vehicle users were complying with Alberta’s new helmet law, which could have helped prevent deaths.
Police did several Check Stops and were called to the scenes of some minor traffic accidents.
And Don Livingston, a member of Alberta Environment and Parks on the task force, said numerous incidents — including abandoned camp fires, liquor violations and littering — did yield fines, “but in the overall picture there were few big problems.”
The number of charges laid by the task force of police, provincial and municipal staff, won’t be known until later this week.