The Sooke Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue was awarded one of the Top 3 Mission Awards from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre on Sunday, after saving three people from a sinking vessel earlier this year.
“It’s fantastic. All of our volunteers in 35 rescue stations across B.C. spend thousands of hours volunteering, training, and putting themselves on call. So when that one mission out of about 800 gets recognized, it puts everything in perspective and shows that they are out there making a difference,” said Jason van der Valk, a coxswain with the Sooke RCMSAR.
On June 3, Sooke RCMSAR received a call from a concerned citizen on shore that there was a vessel overturned with people in the water.
“When they got to the location, they couldn’t see any boat,” said van der Valk.
The RCMSAR began its initial search and shortly after spotted a single person who was floating in the water holding on to a small jerry can.
“That was the only flotation that this person had,” said van der Valk.
They pulled the man out of the water and asked him how many more people were in the water. The man responded, “two.”
“Because it had been some time, the three of them drifted apart, but we were able to quickly locate the other two treading water and brought them on the boat as well,” said van der Valk.
van der Valk said he believes the three of them had been treading water for approximately 20 minutes, which is pretty extreme in these water temperatures without floatation devices.
He explained that unfortunately missions like this are not unusual for the Sooke station due to the remote location.
“We are very unique geographically. We are the only dedicated marine response vessel out there, and we’re on some really rough stretches of water. So when incidents occur, we are kind of the only ones out there.”
Due to the amount of extreme missions the Sooke station has been sent out on, van der Valk said they have received the same award approximately six or seven times in the past.
“Volunteers don’t do it for validation. I think winning that award just brings it back down to home for them, showing that what they do out there is important,” he said. “I’m really proud of the volunteers.”