Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Days after losing his boat in a volunteer rescue mission off the shores of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s emergency operations manager is questioning the Canadian Coast Guard.

Elmer Frank says the CCG Tofino Lifeboat Station could have easily responded to a May 1 distress call, but instead left the rescue to other vessels. As a result, Frank’s efforts to save two elderly fishermen with a dead motor ended with his own 21-foot speedboat capsizing.

While everyone made it safely back to shore that night, Frank is scratching his head in confusion.

“It seems like they spend a lot more resources on my dead boat then they did when somebodies’ lives were actually at risk. They had a helicopter go out and do a search for the derelict boat,” he said.

Frank said he had just returned from a day on the water when he received a call from his nephew about a vessel in distress.

“My boat was on land and I had the trailer behind my house. We had to re-hook it up and tow it to Tofino, my brother (Bruce) followed me into Tofino, I had to stop at the fuel station first and get some fuel,” said Frank, who paid for the fuel out-of-pocket.

Frank, in his Princess M, and his brother in another vessel, the Hannah Jay, were able to successfully locate the boat — the Reel Cowboy, which was in mechanical difficulty — and begin a tow.

“The waves were six to eight feet high with white caps on top. Five to six seconds apart makes for rough seas. The gusts were up to 25 knots. It was not good conditions,” said Frank.

A wave came over the stern of the Princess M and filled one of the hatch covers.

“It filled up fairly quickly. It just takes that one wave. The pump wasn’t working so I knew that we had to do something. My batteries were submerged underwater and I knew things were going to start going down and start shutting down,” Frank said. He called the Coast Guard, abandoned his boat, and jumped on to the Hannah Jay.

“Within seconds my boat rolled over and sank,” he said, adding that they were going to tow it but decided to cut it loose and go back for the Reel Cowboy.

In response to the escalating situation, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre dispatched the CCGS Cape Ann and Fast Rescue Craft from Tofino station, who took over the tow when they arrived.

A day later, the Princess M was spotted sinking in the sand at south Florencia Bay in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. On May 5, Parks Canada teamed up with Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks members and Kestrel Helicopter to retrieve the Princess M from the high tide line.

In an email to the Westerly, Canadian Coast Guard communications advisor Michelle Imbeau said the CCG response was based on initial contact stating the Reel Cowboy had broken down an was requesting a tow, but was not in danger. They were requesting a tow due to a mechanical issue. The Coast Guard broadcast a request for assistance on their behalf and the Hannah J and the Princess M responded.

“The Reel Cowboy took the appropriate steps to try to arrange a tow themselves. The Search and Rescue (SAR) system depends on local resources, VOO, including friends and family, to help assist in low risk situations. This way, the Canadian Coast Guard assets are then available for higher risk, life threatening SAR situations,” continues the CCG statement.

Imbeau went on to note that the MCTS had clear and constant communication with the Reel Cowboy and that when the Reel Cowboy indicated that they had assistance coming, Coast Guard had no way of knowing how long the vessels would take to respond.

According to the CCG, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) had a number of incidents along the coast on May 1. Two of the calls were life threatening incidents.

According to Parks Canada, Frank’s derelict boat is not believed to have caused any significant impacts to the environment.

“The decision to use a helicopter to remove the vessel means the removal process is quick and has a lower environmental impact than other options available to the park reserve,” says Parks Canada communication officer Emma Badgery.

While Frank expressed his appreciation for the support he’s received from Parks Canada to salvage his boat, his concerns for how CCG responded to the May 1 incident persist.

“[Tla-o-qui-aht] are a volunteer emergency search and rescue. We use our own equipment most of the time. People know to contact us when there is no response from Coast Guard, and there have been a few instances where we’ve had to wait and go through the bureaucratic process,” he said.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Two B.C. Indigenous Coast Guard auxiliary units receive big financial boost

READ: Nine derelict vessels to be removed from Ucluelet Inlet as part of massive $2.5M cleanup effort

Canadian Coast GuardSearch and RescueTofino,

Just Posted

The site of the new Mills Memorial Hospital project in Terrace on June 18, 2021. The provincial government is so far choosing not to comment on suggestions a new Mills Memorial Hospital will now cost in excess of $600 million. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Province silent on Terrace hospital construction cost

Health ministry urges citizens to stay tuned

The City of Terrace is setting up a town hall meeting to address the ‘crisis’ in the downtown area. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace council declares crisis in downtown

City staff are in the process of setting up town hall meeting

Terrace RCMP responded to 231 calls from June 7 through June 13, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Assault with a weapon, man climbing building among Terrace RCMP calls last week

Police responded to over 230 calls from June 7 to June 13, 2021

James Nathan Roberts, 38, was found dead May 15 by a Terrace RCMP officer patrolling the woods between the curling rink and the train tracks. Police are asking the public to come forward with any information. (Submitted photo)
Terrace police renews assistance plea a year into homicide investigation

Investigation began after James Roberts’ body was found in May 2020

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
VIDEO: Highlights of Terrace’s inland port public hearing

Council gave third reading to two zoning amendments on June 14

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Most Read