In an incident described by rescue crews as a miracle, a woman who jumped from a BC Ferry survived for five hours in BC’s frigid coastal waters before being rescued by an RCMSAR Station West Vancouver crew.
At 5:48 p.m. on October 30, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre tasked RCMSAR Station West Vancouver to respond to a Mayday call after they received reports of a woman jumping off the Queen of Cowichan ferry halfway through the voyage from Horseshoe Bay on the Lower Mainland to Departure Bay at Nanaimo.
West Vancouver Coxswain Bruce Falkins and crew members Robert Alexander, Ian Grantham and Rebecca Hathaway departed base 10 minutes later and began searching the route the ferry took. Once on scene the crew continued their search, along with resources from the Canadian Coast Guard, a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter and rescue boats from two BC Ferries.
“Even our most seasoned team member… was absolutely gob smacked that she was still alive.”
Over the next four hours the West Vancouver crew continued to search for the woman, conducting an expanding square search and deploying a datum marker buoy and a man overboard pole.
By 10:45 p.m., five hours after the woman had entered the water, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre stood down the search vessels, believing the woman could not have survived. Tasked to retrieve the buoys and life rings deployed as part of the search, the West Vancouver crew came upon the Queen of Cowichan’s life ring – with the woman floating inside.
The crew gently recovered the woman via their vessel’s swim grid and wrapped her in blankets. They then went alongside the nearby Coast Guard hovercraft Siyay and transferred the woman to their waiting crew, who provided medical care and transported her to shore and a waiting team of BC Ambulance paramedics.
This extraordinary instance of survival shocked everyone involved in the incident. “Honestly, I think it’s a miracle. Five hours in the water. Most people would not have survived that,” West Vancouver crew member Robert Alexander said. “Even our most seasoned team member… was absolutely gob smacked that she was still alive.”