Immediate and committed heroics saved the lives of five people whose vessel crashed into a buoy marker on Calmus Passage, near Vargas Island, during rough ocean conditions Saturday night.
“Ahousaht has always been a willing participant to save anyone who is in distress in our territory,” Ahousaht Chief Greg Louie told the Westerly News. “Ahousaht is always willing to go out, whether it’s a calm, nice day, it’s dark at night or it’s a rough night like Saturday…It’s innate in their system, in their blood. They just know how important it is to respond and save lives the best that they can. Sometimes it’s not as lucky as this past weekend. Ahousaht people know that if our boats were in distress in another territory, we hope that another community would respond the same way Ahousaht does.”
The vessel was initially believed to have crashed into rocks but, in an email to the Westerly News on Nov. 20, the Ahousaht RCMP confirmed it was a buoy marker.
The vessel was operating as a water taxi and 12 passengers were on board when it hit the buoy, according to the RCMP.
“The vessel made contact with the buoy on the starboard side causing damage to the starboard engine. Operator of the vessel utilized the VHF radio asking for help and another vessel was able to render assistance and transported the injured passengers back to Ahousaht where the Canadian Coast Guard attended and all injured parties taken back to Tofino where they received medical treatment at the Tofino General Hospital,” the email read, adding that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has been notified and an investigation into the incident is underway.
MARPAC spokesperson Michelle Scott told the Westerly News that the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Ann arrived at the scene and assisted the responding Ahousaht mariners in the rescue.
BC Emergency Health Services spokesperson Sarah Morris told the Westerly that paramedics were called to the scene around 7:30 p.m.
“Two ambulances were dispatched; one paramedic crew attended with the Coast Guard to retrieve five individuals, while the other paramedics met the rescue team at the dock,” Morris said. “All five patients were cared for and transported to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.”