‘Awfully lucky:’ Witnesses watch boat sink just moments after sailor rescued by BC Ferries crew


WATCH: Witness recounts an incredible ocean rescue involving a BC Ferries crew during a windstorm Monday evening. April Lawrence reports.

Powering through blasting winds and crushing waves, cell phone video captures a BC Ferries crew racing to shore near Swartz Bay after rescuing a man Monday evening around 6:30 p.m.

“It was horrible horrible conditions, the waves were huge the winds were howling, I was very worried I didn’t think it was going to end well,” said Coastal Celebration passenger Robin Junger.

Junger was on the 5:00 p.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay when he heard an announcement about a vessel in distress then saw the ferry’s searchlights illuminate a sinking 24-foot aluminum vessel.

“Only the bow was sticking out of the water, almost vertical, and I could see a guy on it, holding on,” said Junger.

After a request for assistance from the Coast Guard, three BC Ferries deckhands jumped in the rescue boat and made it to the man just in time.

“The boat sunk very shortly after he was pulled off it, it was like a movie and all of a sudden you couldn’t see it anymore,” Junger said.

Even the massive Coastal Celebration itself, which was also being tossed around on the stormy seas, pitched in.

“So the captain on the Coastal Celebration maneuvered the vessel so it was providing a wind block so that they could launch the rescue boat and go over and retrieve the gentlemen,” said BC Ferries Executive Director of Public Affairs Deborah Marshall.

Junger says the man was wearing a life jacket but with such massive waves he doubts rescuers would have found him if they had been just a minute later.

“He was just sitting there in the boat in the rescue ship riding along coming home must be feeling awfully, awfully lucky,” he said.

BC Ferries says it performs about 24 rescues every year, but rarely in such severe weather. The conditions were so treacherous they cancelled all remaining sailings Monday night.

“We’re really proud of our crew, it was a risky operation last night with the high winds and the sea state and they did a fabulous job,” said Marshall.

It’s unclear why the boater was on the water, or where he is from. All Robin Junger knows is he has a new appreciation for BC Ferries staff.

“To actually go and do it in that time frame and those circumstances is just remarkable,” he said.

The two boats sailed into Swartz Bay together where they were met by paramedics but incredibly the boater’s injuries weren’t serious.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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