From left to right, SAR volunteers Colin Camire and Ian MacLean practice hauling Myriam Rioux into the Masset Marine Rescue boat using a basket stretcher. (Ross Hayes/Masset Marine Rescue)

Masset Marine Rescue rehearses a life-or-death skill

Self-rescue training follows deadly 2012 accident in Sechelt Rapid that killed two SAR volunteers.

Search-and-rescue volunteers took a cold dip in Masset Harbour last week.

One by one, all 19 members of Masset Marine Rescue simulated a life-or-death skill — getting out from under their Zodiac rescue boat if it ever flips over.

“There’s a pocket of air, but you need to get out,” says Ross Hayes, unit leader for the marine rescue group that serves northern Haida Gwaii.

Getting out from under a boat isn’t so easy while wearing rescue gear and a personal flotation device (PFD).

“You can be so buoyant that it’s hard to duck down and get under,” said Hayes.

Some members of Masset Marine Rescue had already tried similar drills at the Canadian Coast Guard school in Bamfield, on Vancouver Island. But starting this year, such drills are an annual requirement for every marine SAR volunteer in B.C.

The change comes in the wake of a deadly accident on the Sechelt Rapids in 2012, where two SAR volunteers drowned under a flipped Zodiac. Recovery crews found their life vests had caught on the overturned boat.

Hayes said the May 1 training was the first time Masset Marine Rescue has tried the drill here. Like the Bamfield school, they simulated a flipped Zodiac by mounting a pair of split garbage bins onto a plywood board and floating it off a dock.

Everyone made it under, said Hayes, which was heartening to see. Already soaked, they also tried a number of assisted and self-rescues.

“This brings the training home,” he said.

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Masset Marine Rescue volunteer Myriam Rioux swims out from under a plastic bin in Masset Harbour, simulating what it’s like to swim out from under a flipped Zodiac while wearing a PFD and other rescue gear. (Ross Hayes/Masset Marine Rescue)