A Prince Rupert man downed in the Skeena River Tuesday afternoon near China Bar, 60 km west of Terrace.
The 59-year old received CPR on scene by BC Ambulance paramedics and was rushed to Mills Memorial Hospital for further resuscitation efforts but was soon pronounced dead, according to Terrace Search and Rescue.
A second man was treated for hypothermia and later released.
Initial reports indicated the men were fishing, but it’s now understood they were harvesting wild cottonweed as a treatment of some kind against the coronavirus.
According to the survivor’s statement to Terrace Search and Rescue (TSAR), the two men had successfully crossed the river in ankle-deep water to China Bar, but around 5 p.m. they attempted their return from a different location and ran into trouble as the water depth increased rapidly, and they swam for shore.
Two BC Ambulance crews were en route from Prince Rupert to Terrace when they happened to spot the survivor flagging down traffic for help. Two paramedics descended the river bank and found the second man unresponsive in the water.
Paramedics administered CPR and coordinated with Terrace SAR for a longline evacuation up the steep bank, and with RCMP for a highway closure and helicopter staging area. A third ambulance was called from Terrace for emergency transport.
TSAR vice president Dave Jephson said he is deeply sympathetic with the family and friends of the deceased man, and hopes the tragedy will serve as caution to anyone taking risks outdoors this time of year.
“From an operational perspective, things couldn’t have gone better,” he said, acknowledging the BC Ambulance paramedics for their response to an unfolding situation and their coordination of other agencies for assistance. “And yet this man’s life couldn’t be saved. This is a precarious time of year, and this is not the first [time] this has happened.””
In total, responders in three ambulances, two police cruisers, and 12 members of Terrace Search and Rescue Rope Rescue, and Swiftwater Rescue attended the scene.