Weak, distraught woman rescued after six day ordeal on west coast

  • Jun. 6, 2011 3:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret –The Sandspit Coast Guard station rescued a 62-year-old woman from the west coast of Graham Island Sunday (June 5), where she had survived for six days with no shelter and almost no food. Rescue specialist Civa Gauthier said the woman was weak and distraught, but had a fire going on the beach. The Coast Guard called a helicopter, which took the woman to the hospital in Queen Charlotte. Ms Gauthier said the Coast Guard was called just before 3 am Sunday, after a fish boat reported it had spotted a flare and fire in Tian Bay (about halfway up the west coast of Graham Island). The fish boat was not able to get ashore. A crew of four from the Sandspit station travelled to Tian Bay on the Cape Mudge, a distance of over 100 km, arriving around 7 am. “There was a woman on the beach screaming and waving her hands,” Ms Gauthier said. Two of the Coast Guard crew went ashore, where the woman told them that she had come ashore six days earlier. “She told us that she had lost her friend.” The woman said she and her partner, a 66-year-old man, had anchored their commercial fishing boat while awaiting a troll fishery opening. They decided to explore nearby Tian Bay in their aluminum skiff. But the skiff capsized and they were both thrown into the ocean. “They had lifejackets on the skiff with them but neither of them were wearing a lifejacket,” Ms Gauthier said. “She figures they were in the water five to 10 minutes.” The woman made it to shore but had not seen the man since. She had a thermos of tea, an orange and an unopened package of cigarettes, Ms Gauthier said. As the days passed, she marked them with charcoal on a log. She found some water to drink and ate some grass roots. “She was weak, and obviously distraught,” she said. “She was saying, ‘I lost my friend, I lost my friend’.” The Coast Guard brought the woman to her fishing boat, which was still anchored about five kilometres offshore. She gathered some personal items as well as her two cats, which had survived the six days on the boat. Masset RCMP have now launched a search for the missing man. He is described as a 66-year-old Caucasian male with brown hair and blue eyes, 5’10” and weighing 154 pounds. West Coast Marine Services were on their way to the area on Monday along with divers from the RCMP underwater recovery team. According to RCMP, the woman is in good condition. Dorothy Garrett, of the Queen Charlotte SPCA, said the cats had been brought to the SPCA and were being checked by the veterinarian. “They were pretty scared, pretty traumatized,” she said. “We just gave them some space and some time.”

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