When a passenger got seriously ill aboard the Oosterdam, the captain sent out a call for help.
That call from the cruise ship, located 30 kilometres off Vancouver Island’s Brooks Peninsula, was answered by a Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue helicopter, after suffering a medical emergency.
The Cormorant helicopter left its base at 19 Wing, Comox at 7:40 a.m. and arrived over the ship at approximately 8:30 a.m.
Strong winds of almost 75 km/h in the area forced the helicopter crew to conduct a hoist off the bow of the ship, from a height of 140 feet.
With the helicopter flying backwards at 45 km/h to compensate for the wind and turbulence, two search and rescue technicians were lowered to the deck, where they placed the patient into a rescue basket.
“We had good communication with the ship’s bridge crew and they were able to maneuver the ship to help us, but we still had to handle strong winds,” said Captain Luc Coates, aircraft commander. “The First Officer, Capt. Pete Wright and Flight Engineer, Warrant Officer James MacDougall, worked very well to develop a plan before we came in; it made the hoist efficient, despite the challenging winds.”
Once the patient was on board, the helicopter flew to Victoria General Hospital, where he was transferred in stable condition.
• When Regional District of Nanaimo chair Joe Stanhope travels to Victoria for the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, he’ll be working to put the issue of derelict boats at the top of the agenda.
Stanhope, who sits as a director of the UBCM and as chair of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) said he plans to highlight the issue, particularly among municipal leaders from B.C.’s interior region, who have little or no experience with what Stanhope said is a growing problem on the coast.
“We had an incident last year in Baynes Sound when an old ship sank, but fortunately it didn’t cause a lot of pollution,” he said. “It could have been one hell of a lot worse.”
At issue is the question of which level of government or agency is responsible for dealing with the hundreds of derelict vessels which litter the B.C. coastline. Although the Coast Guard will deal with a vessel that has sunk and is leaking pollution or which is considered a hazard to navigation, no agency is taking responsibility for dealing with abandoned vessels that are still afloat.
These vessels can be more than an eyesore. They can also become a source of toxic substances such as diesel, gasoline, and lubricating oils, along with battery acids and metals and paints containing lead and copper.
“This is happening all over the Gulf Islands and is a big issue for the Islands Trust,” Stanhope said. “It’s an issue up and down the coast.”