A Prince George, B.C., mother is grateful her kids are alive after a terrifying experience on the Nechako River just before the long weekend.
Cara Brinsky's 27-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son were among a group of seven people, including four children under the age of 12, tubing on the river on the afternoon of June 30. Only two of the group were wearing life jackets.
Floating along the Nechako is a popular activity in the summer months, but a late melt had made it more dangerous than usual. Earlier in the week, the River Forecast Centre had issued a flood watch for the region , warning that there could be a "sharp rise" in water levels.
But Brinsky said her son is a strong swimmer and believed he could handle the dangers.
"He's scuba certified. He's just looking into getting his lifeguard [certification] — he's like, 'I don't need a life-jacket,'" she said.
Her daughter, she said, had believed a friend would bring a lifejacket for her to wear, but when that turned out not to be the case, decided to go anyway.
The group got into trouble at around 5 p.m when the strong river currents under the Foothills Bridge threw her son off his tube.
"[The current] twirled him and it actually slammed [him] into the concrete pillar [of the bridge]," she said on CBC's Radio West.
Meanwhile, her daughter — whose tube was tied to those of other people in the group — was caught on a concrete pillar on the other side of the bridge.
"She's freaking out, screaming about her brother," Brinsky said.
Bystanders assist rescuers
RCMP say they were called to the bridge with reports of several people in distress in the water at around 5 p.m. PT.
Fortunately, there were several bystanders nearby who were able to take part in the rescue.
"If it weren't for all these people … pulling people out of the river, I don't think we would have been as lucky to have everybody come out of it uninjured," Brinsky said.
"Really, it's phenomenal."
People in motorized boats assisted regular rescue crews in pulling people out of the water and onto the shore.
Dale Miller, the executive director of the Lifesaving Society of B.C. and Yukon, says the incident is a good reminder to always wear a life jacket while tubing on the river and be aware of the high water around this time of year.
"The waters are flowing fast and high and, of course, that means they're going to pick up extra debris along the way — and that creates some danger as well."
Miller also doesn't recommend tying multiple tubes together as a form of emergency plan.
"Tying them up really limits their mobility — we've seen some get wrapped up around bridge supports and debris," he said. "Hopefully, everybody's wearing a life jacket."
There have been 11 drowning deaths in B.C. and Yukon so far this year, according to the Lifesaving Society.