Water Rescue - Persons in Distress / Entrapment - Gordie Howe Bridge
At approximately 6:32 p.m. on July 5, 2020, the Saskatoon Fire Department received a 911 call reporting multiple persons in distress in the South Saskatchewan River near the Gordie Howe Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth Power Station. Two fire engines, two water rescue units, and one battalion chief were immediately dispatched for response.
Both water rescue units deployed onto the river from an emergency boat launch as additional fire crews responded by ground to the reported area for visual confirmation. Upon arrival, it was confirmed that four females on two inflatable crafts were in distress and trapped against a concrete structure in the river; one of the females was observed to be in the water and unable to support herself. One firefighter trained in surface water rescue entered the river for recovery of the first patient; a complication with one of the inflatable crafts resulted in the firefighter making a second entry into the water for recovery of another patient; remaining patients were brought into the boat directly from the inflatable crafts. None of the four were wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) or lifejackets when rescued. Water rescue crews also retrieved both inflatable crafts from the river.
The patients were medically assessed, provided emergency blankets and PFDs, and transported by boat to the docks at the Saskatoon Canoe Club before being further evaluated by ground ambulance and released on scene. All four were experiencing conditions consistent with fatigue and panic but were otherwise uninjured. This incident occurred due to high water levels, increased flow rates, and a lack of preparation and experience by the river users.
The Saskatoon Fire Department is urging members of the public to stay off of the South Saskatchewan River at this time; rapidly increasing flow rates and rising water levels have made recreational uses of the river unsafe. Updates on the status of the South Saskatchewan River at Saskatoon can be accessed through the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency website.