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Crews searching for missing boater in Penticton

Penticton RCMP Const. Jody George navigates his way out of the marina Thursday morning with Constables Andrew Campbell and Martin Degen en route to the location on Okanagan Lake where a man went overboard just before 8 p.m. Wednesday. An RCMP helicopter and the Penticton Search and Rescue boat were also called in to help find the missing 25-year-old from Abbotsford.  - Mark Brett/Western News
Penticton RCMP Const. Jody George navigates his way out of the marina Thursday morning with Constables Andrew Campbell and Martin Degen en route to the location on Okanagan Lake where a man went overboard just before 8 p.m. Wednesday. An RCMP helicopter and the Penticton Search and Rescue boat were also called in to help find the missing 25-year-old from Abbotsford.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton emergency response search crews are on Okanagan Lake looking for a male that fell off a boat Wednesday evening.

Deputy fire chief Dave Spalding said they were called to a marine rescue, along with Naramata Volunteer Fire Department, at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

“A wakeboard boat had a fellow sitting on the bow and when they slowed the boat down he slid off and they didn’t realize it and had sped up again,” said Spalding.

“Apparently he went under the boat and never resurfaced.”

Next of kin have been notified but the man’s name has not been released yet. RCMP confirmed this morning that the missing person is a 25-year-old male from Abbotsford. The man was one of seven occupants in the boat that had been on the water for several hours and were returning to the Penticton Marina when he was thrown off into the water. RCMP said he was not wearing a personal floatation device at the time.

Spalding said the initial call came in as an overturned boat, but when the fire department arrived they found two boats, one assisting in the search and neither turned over.

The boat operator confirmed to the search crew the male had gone under the boat and it wasn’t until that point the driver realized the male riding on the bow had fallen in.

Tony Trovao, acting fire chief for the Naramata department, said they sent a crew out to the scene on Wednesday evening and searched for the man until about 10 p.m. when it was called off.

He said the search was initially targeted about one kilometre off the shore of Okanagan Lake Beach from the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

Penticton Search and Rescue have been on the lake since 6:15 a.m. Thursday morning assisting with the grid search.

“We are currently still on the lake, just south of 3 Mile and approximately in the middle of the lake searching the area around a sailing buoy,” said Dale Jorgensen, Penticton SAR search manager.

“We have a search dog with us that has been trained and certified for searching for possible recovery in water,”

RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said they are now considering this a recovery operation.

“They are out there hoping for recovery in this unfortunate situation to give closure to the family,” he said.

Dellebuur said the RCMP dive team will not be called in to assist in recovering the male because of the depth of where the man fell off the boat, instead they will be taking passes by helicopter and on the lake with their boat.

He added there are several factors that will determine how long they will continue the search.

“The water is still quite warm which will aid us. Once you get at that depth you are at the mercy of the lake,” said Dellebuur.

“I have been involved in these things many times in many lakes and every time it is different because of the currents, depths, visibility and other things.

“We will continue to search as long as they think there is a possibility of recovery.”

Deputy fire chief Spalding said the incident is surprising, considering summer is coming to a close and they have had to deal with only minor incidents during the crush of the tourist season.

“We had quite a few calls on the river channel with the bridges and rafts and a couple of boats, but not like last year because we didn’t have those sudden windstorms come up,” said Spalding.

“There had been no fatalities or serious injuries this season that I am aware of.”

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