The rules of swiftwater
As a former raft guide, certified Rescue 3 International swiftwater level 2 technician and whitewater enthusiast both in closed and open boat for over 15 years, I have to question why a fixed cable was introduced into the rescue environment on the Goat River on the day Sheila Sweatman lost her life.
I would like to touch on two points: the cable and swiftwater rescue standards.
The fact that the RCMP gave the go ahead to use the cable shows their lack of understanding of river rescue techniques; had the RCMP been trained they may have thought twice about giving the go ahead to use a steel cable. Rescue techniques may have changed since I was certified under Rescue 3 International but moving water is moving water; that never changes nor do the rules around swiftwater.
The second thought I have is why there needs to be BC swiftwater standards? There are global standards with Rescue 3 International who have been audited independently to be “compliant with NFPA 1670 standard for technical rescue in high risk environments including swiftwater, ice and rope rescue.” Why not adopt their international standards?
I would encourage both law enforcement and firefighters to get swifwater training. It will only aid them in their jobs alongside search and rescue groups, even if they never get in the water during a rescue they will have a better understanding of how moving water works and rescue techniques around swiftwater. We are surrounded by fast moving creeks and rivers here in the Kootenays; it only makes sense.
It is sad that Sheila had to be the second victim. It is something every river rescue professional wants to avoid; losing one of their own. Let’s hope Nelson Search and Rescue and other regional search and rescue groups throughout the province consider adopting the Rescue 3 International standards in the future and apply those standards consistently.