Signs warning boaters of the dangers posed by the unpredictable nature of the Kitimat River have been posted along the river between the 18 Mile Bridge and Kitimat.
District of Kitimat Leisure Services director Martin Gould said the DoK was aware of the signs, which appeared overnight at a number of locations, including Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park.
“These are not District of Kitimat signs. At this time we don’t know who put them up. Currently, the DoK has no objection to these signs,” said Gould.
The signs read: Attention boaters! The Kitimat River is a fast-flowing dangerous stream. Logjams and fallen trees are common. Water levels often change drastically in only hours. New hazards can appear overnight. Plan ahead and scout the river before you put in. Always wear your life jacket.
Kitimat Search and Rescue search manager Manny Arruda said while the organization wasn’t aware of who put up the signs, they nevertheless send a very important message, especially in light of recent drownings.
“We have had two fatalities so far this year. With a whole bunch of new people coming into town, underestimating the Kitimat River, we can expect more incidents to happen,” said Arruda.
He said an ongoing awareness campaign informing boaters about the necessity of wearing lifejackets, or personal flotation devices (PFDs), wasn’t bearing fruit as yet.
“Compliance is still really low on the river. It surprises me some of the people who run businesses and who have safety backgrounds still have that mindset. Intelligent people making unintelligent decisions,” said Arruda.
He said Search and Rescue was broadcasting the message of safety on rivers as broadly as possible and encouraged the community to call people out for ignoring warnings.
“If we have to shame somebody to save a life, if that’s what it takes, we will do it. Guaranteed we will pull more bodies out of this river if people don’t heed these warnings,” said Arruda.
“We have people showing up here who have never been out on the river. They can’t go out on their own. They need to either walk the river to see what’s around the corners or go with somebody who has been down the river before.”
Search and Rescue is advising people that are going out on the river that they shouldn’t launch their boats above Cable Car.
“Even below Cable Car boaters are likely to encounter problems. Typically when people get into trouble on the river it’s as a result of a series of events – you poke a hole in a pontoon, then you can’t paddle effectively, you go overboard, get sucked into a logjam,” said Arruda.
The other concern for rescuers in the increasing number of fishermen getting into trouble fishing off the riverbanks.
Referring to the drowning of a 21-year-old Kitimat man who was dragged into river when his waders filled with water and he was swept away by the river earlier this year, Arruda said it can’t be stressed enough for fisherman on the riverbanks to be prepared.
“It’s really very important that fishermen wear a belt with their waders to keep the water out. They should also carry a quickly-accessible knife on their waders. Ideally, of course, the best is that they also wear a life jacket,” said Arruda.
“The message is – in the river, there’s no stop and there’s no reverse. The river is going to take you where it takes you.”