WATCH: Divers rescued off Race Rocks alive thanks to newly purchased marine radio
It could have been a terrible tragedy but nine people are alive after being pulled out of the frigid waters off Race Rocks.
They had to be rescued after their dive team boat overturned in bad weather Sunday afternoon.
“When we arrived on the scene just south of Race Rocks we encountered fairly large seas, six to seven foot, an over-turned aluminum vessel and there were some persons sitting on top of the hull and some holding on from the side,” says Jason Van Der Valk of the Sooke Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.
The victims are all members of the Canadian Forces’ Aquarious Dive Club.
When they headed out, they say conditions were calm but as soon as they arrived at Race Rocks — an area known for treacherous waters — that quickly changed.
“They immediately decided to abort the drive,” says Jackie Cowan of Victoria SAR. “Just as they were getting ready to depart three waves came. The first wave sent water in the boat, the second wave more water, and the third wave went right over.”
In a matter of seconds, the 7 meter aluminum boat overturned.
“Whoosh, the boat just immediately flipped over and they said in a blink of an eye they were in the water,” says Cowan.
Most of the gear was also lost. Fortunately, all but one of the divers were wearing wet suits or dry suits. That person and four others climbed onto the overturned hull in the rough water but when it became clear no one could see them, they had one last hope for rescue.
“One of them — and this is what saved them — two weeks before that had bought a marine radio,” explains Cowan. “They geared up one person who went underneath the boat to check to see if the bag was still there and that’s really what saved their life.”
After the mayday call, a SpringTide Whale Watching boat was first on scene. The captain took his passengers to the Race Rocks dock so he could help, but by then both Sooke and Victoria SAR had arrived.
“The sea state was pretty heavy so we couldn’t get too close to the vessel and one by one we took persons off,” says Van Der Valk.
Two divers suffered from mild hypothermia and one had to be taken to hospital but thanks to a waterproof VHF radio, this survival story has a happy ending.