A young Saanich man remains missing after his canoe capsized Friday night near Ten Mile Point during a camping venture that turned terribly tragic.
Two young men, each 20-year-old Saanich residents, launched their canoe from Telegraph Bay Cove July 6 with the intention of camping on nearby Discovery Island.
The canoe capsized when they transited Baynes Channel near Ten Mile Point and the men clung to a dry bag of camping gear. Residents of the point heard their cries for help and called police. Neither man was wearing a life jacket, and no personal floatation devices were in the canoe.
One of the men was found clinging to Tod Rock near Mary Tod Island off Oak Bay at 12:25 a.m. He was plucked from the rocks with hypothermia, but released in good health Saturday from Royal Jubilee Hospital.
“He was severely hypothermic when they found him, but the best that could be expected for being in the water for an hour and a half,” said Kim Bentzon, station leader with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, station 33, Oak Bay, who attended the call.
Unfortunately after an exhaustive water and shoreline search Friday night and Saturday morning, the second man hasn’t been found.
“The fellows did not have (personal floatation devices) and that’s certainly the first thing any boater should always have,” Bentzon said. “For the one fellow who made it to the rock, that was great, but for the other fellow, not so.”
Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said the men became separated in the water in the dark near Tod Rock.
“His buddy was washed up onto the rock. That’s when the second man was last seen,” Jantzen said. “It’s tragic, they were just in sight of shore.”
Sea conditions were relatively calm with a light breeze and “nothing overly severe”, Bentzon added.
“In that area there is a lot of current all of the time,” said Steve Hanna, deputy chief of the Saanich fire department, which also responded to the call. “Whether the tide is strong that day – there is a strong current always.”
Boats from Canadian and U.S. coast guards, Victoria police marine unit, Saanich fire department boat, RCMP marine unit, Oak Bay police and fire departments combed the waters at night and in the morning, along with a Cormorant helicopter out of Comox.
Saanich search and rescue volunteers hunted the shoreline from Ten Mile Point to Ogden Point from dawn July 7 until the search was called off in the early afternoon. Jantzen said rescuers just ran out of areas to look, and the search yielded no clues.
At approximately 4 p.m. near Race Rocks, a commercial fishing vessel from Delta located a blue canoe the same make, size and appearance to that used by the men.
The incident is now classified as a missing person case. Police aren’t saying if the man likely perished or could have made it to shore somewhere, although police say the window of survival in water at night is about three hours. There are scores of rocky islets between Willows Beach and Discovery and Chatham islands.
Saanich major crimes detectives have been assigned to the case and are supporting the families of the men. Detectives have determined drugs and alcohol aren’t a factor in the canoe capsizing. Greater Victoria Victims Services volunteers are also assisting the families.
Saanich police are asking boaters and beach-goers keep watch for the missing man who is described as wearing a blue Umbro soccer zip-up. Missing items include two wooden paddles and a neon green dry bag containing camping equipment, an item that investigators are hoping will reveal more clues as to what happened and perhaps refine a search area, though there is no further search being considered at this point, Jantzen said.
“(Investigators) are really involved to help support the family and to speak to everybody to get a sense of how this happened,” he said.
Anyone with information about this incident or who comes across any of the missing items can contact the Saanich police at 250-475-4321.
– with files from Natalie North