Victoria police officers used civilian vessels on Wednesday to reach a woman who was reportedly screaming for help from a boat anchored near Banfield Park on the Gorge Waterway.
Police said shortly after 7 p.m., they initially received information that a woman was in distress and a boat was sinking. When officers were arriving, two paddle boarders had already started hitting the side of the boat, trying to help the woman.
Since VicPD does not have a marine unit or police vessels, the officers reached out to marine response agencies and used civilian vessels to get to the woman on the boat, who was reportedly screaming “he’s trying to kill me.” Victoria Harbour Ferry, several boaters in the area and local residents with boats also took officers out to the woman.
When officers got to the vessel, a man came up to the deck. Police said he was initially uncooperative and not compliant with police direction.
According to police, the man eventually complied and officers were able to speak to the woman. She said was not in distress and did not need help from police.
The man was then allowed to leave the vessel. He departed on makeshift stand-up paddleboard made from a hot tub lid.
No charges are being recommended and the vessel was not deemed to be in immediate danger of sinking.
“The actions of these citizens was commendable and allowed VicPD officers to reach the vessel to render assistance,” VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak said in a statement.
“However, this event also highlighted how important it is to have a clear protocol for a co-ordinated response to incidents like this in local waters. That is something we will be reviewing in the wake of this incident.”
The officers who responded to the incident are nominating six people for VicPD Civic Service Awards. The awards will be given out during a ceremony at VicPD headquarters at 2:15 p.m. Sept. 24.
“These six citizens stepped up and greatly assisted the Victoria Police Department when we needed them most,” Manak said in a statement.
“It will be my pleasure to pass on the gratitude of our officers through our VicPD Civic Services Awards, which they so richly deserve for their actions.”