There were some scary moments for an Okanagan River Channel rafter on Friday when she got caught up at the first bridge.
Penticton fire department, RCMP and ambulance services arrived at the bridge located on Highway 97 to find a woman in distress.
Witnesses watching the rescue said a female fell off her raft and was struggling in the water because she didn’t know how to swim. The rafters received assistance from a firefighter who plunged into the water.
“They were coming down on tubes and got hooked on the bridge. The fire department managed to cut the lines on the tubes and off they went,” said Sgt. Rick Dellebuur. “People all tie up their rafts at the top and then they hit one of those bridge pillars and get wrapped around it. You can’t go anywhere and the water is coming all around it.”
With temperatures soaring into the 30s, the river channel was a popular place to be Friday. Shortly after the incident at least two other groups of rafters came into contact with the concrete barrier splitting the river channel at the bridge. One group that was tied together also got hung up on the barrier, their rope eventually giving way and sending them free on opposite sides of the pillar.
“People need to be aware that the current water levels are high, and unless you are a good swimmer, and especially for children, they should have life-jackets on,” warned Dellebuur.
Coyote Cruises, a business that provides bus rides from the mid-point back to the launch site and rafts for rent, said the water continues to be fast and deep. Cassandra Pierre, manager at Coyote Cruises, said it is only taking rafters 30 to 45 minutes to reach the mid-way pickup point.
“We are warning them that the water is fast and high, therefore there could be currents. We also have signs up warning people of the high water,” said Pierre.
Coyote Cruises also offers life-jackets for those who aren’t comfortable on the water.