Search for missing Tofino boaters scaled back handed over to RCMP

first_imgTOFINO, B.C. – Jae Valentine woke to the sound of wolves howling and cries for help early Friday morning after a boat sank off the coast of Tofino, B.C., prompting an exhaustive search for three missing men that has now been scaled back.The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre reduced rescue efforts 18 hours after responding to the call for help and has handed the case over to Tofino RCMP, which is treating it as a missing persons case.Two of the five people aboard the tin boat were rescued within two hours, but volunteers and search technicians continue to scour the shoreline and sea for the remaining three.Valentine, who owns the Cable Cove Inn, says she heard someone yelling “help me” over and over again beginning at 2:45 a.m. on Friday. She couldn’t tell where the calls were coming from because her property sits between an ocean and harbour. She got dressed and went outside to find her neighbour yelling back, “What kind of help do you need?”Her neighbour had already phoned the Canadian Coast Guard and asked her to call 911.About 40 minutes later, she watched rescuers drop one person off at a dock where an emergency vehicle was waiting. Then, she said she heard a second voice calling out, “Where are you, I’m coming, where are you, buddy?”Valentine believes the second voice was another person who had been on the sunken vessel, searching for the first man who was rescued.Since then, she said community members have come together to help look for the men or are waiting for news.“We’re all sort of standby, I think,” she said. “I know a number of people in the local stores, when they’re off shift from their employment, they’re all down at the docks just awaiting information.”Details continue to emerge in the wake of the incident. There were five people aboard the open, six-metre boat that sank without a mayday call, the JRCC said.One person was found in the water south of Felice Island, half an hour after rescuers received the call for help. Almost an hour after that, a second person swam ashore to Duffin Cove.Both were taken to hospital.One of the survivors is a member of a southern Ontario First Nation.Chief Ava Hill of the Six Nations of the Grand River said she wrote a letter to WestJet verifying he is a community member so that he could board a plane to return home.Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the three missing men are fishermen from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.Osborne said while nobody ever wants accidents to happen, she’s struck each time that they do by the way the community comes together with “all hands on deck.”In 2015, five Britons and one Australian died after a rogue wave capsized a 20-metre whale-watching vessel.Last spring, Calgarian Alvin Beckley and Edmontonian Mike Cutler died when their sport fishing charter capsized.“Something that always sticks with me each time is the way people come together and just kind of the sheer humanity in it, of people gathering and feeding each other, supporting each other and loving each other. It’s kind of the very human side of tragedies,” Osborne said.Navy Lt. Melissa Kia, spokeswoman for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, said the search has involved hundreds of people from the Canadian Forces, Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, Emergency Management B.C., RCMP and Emergency Health Services — plus community members who have gone out in kayaks and other small crafts.But after 18 hours, she said the JRCC had to scale back its role in the search.“We really threw everything we’ve got at it and to come up empty handed is really heartbreaking,” Kia said.Kia said community members and volunteers are continuing the search, but could not speak on behalf of their efforts.Rescuers determine a “survivability” time frame, which was 18 hours in this case, using computer modeling that considers many factors, Kia said.Factors may include what the individuals were wearing, how they came to be in distress, water temperature, winds, tides and whether they had life vests, she said.“What we do is we take that number, it’s not hard and fast in every case, and we will stretch it to the maximum and throw everything we’ve got at it, as was the case in Tofino,” she said.Kia said it’s not uncommon for RCMP to classify a search and rescue case as a missing persons file, once the case is handed over to them.She said the community response to the disaster has been “overwhelming.”“We would like to thank the countless volunteers from the community surrounding Tofino and Ucluelet and all of our First Nations partners. The response was really quite overwhelming, there were hundreds of people who took to the water and to scour the coastline,” she said.“Our thoughts go out to the families of the loved ones; it’s very heartbreaking to turn this case over unresolved.”last_img

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