Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Harbour Air pilot rescues three boaters on Whistler’s frozen Green Lake

Harbour Air pilot Chris Cameron is shown Tuesday at the company’s base in Vancouver Harbour. 
Photograph by: Jason Payne , PRV

A quick-thinking Harbour Air pilot is being credited with saving the lives of three hypothermic boaters on Whistler’s frigid Green Lake on Canada Day.

Pilot Chris Cameron was getting ready to take off from Green Lake at 5:30 p.m. Monday when off in the distance he saw three people struggling in the water after their canoe capsized.

The three were more than 150 metres from shore and thrashing aimlessly in the frigid glacier-fed lake when Cameron pulled the single engine Otter up to help.

“These guys could not help themselves,” Cameron, 31, said Tuesday from the company’s base in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour.

”I quickly realized they could not get the boat righted,” he said of the tense moments he faced while scheduled to take 10 passengers to Vancouver.

As he manoeuvred the plane in to help the three, one was able to grab on to the side of the plane and then get the other two up on to the flat part of the pontoon.

Harbour Air has a boat at their Green Lake dock and Cameron radioed for help.

Cameron said all three were in rough shape, suffering from hypothermia. One of the boaters, Cameron said, was unresponsive.

“The one guy, he was not going to make it to shore,” he said.

“He was definitely lucky.”

Cameron, who has been with Harbour Air for three years, said it is not unusual for pilots to notice boaters in distress from the air and call for help.

And he knew how cold the water was in Green Lake because he had gone for a swim at noon while waiting to take the passengers to Vancouver.

“It is really cold in that lake and I realized they would not make it to shore. It only took a couple of minutes for everything to go really bad.”

Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said Green Lake is not a place for misadventure.

“Green Lake is glacier fed and very, very cold,” he said. “You will not survive very long in that water. Any delay definitely reduces their chances of survival.”

Knapton said all of the boaters were taken to the Whistler Clinic and all will survive.

“He did a great thing for sure,” he added about Cameron’s actions.

In 1996, a teen died in Green Lake while trying to rescue her brother.

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