When it comes to the excitement that involves swift-flowing water from Lake Huron down the St. Clair River, it would seem that the cautionary notes played by officials from the Canadian Coast Guard, Sarnia Fire Rescue and Lambton EMS weren’t enough to drown out the strains that came from inflatables at this year’s Port Huron Float Down.
While as its name would suggest, the event, unsanctioned and widely panned by authorities on both sides of the border, began on the U.S. side of the international border, but it was a growing “Canadian contingent” that embraced the event, starting around noon on Sunday, August 19.
Yes, thousands took to the river from the U.S. but it was still several hundred that took to the water from Point Edward.
With currents being what they are, those who entered farther south from Canada had some paddling to do to reach the masses of floaters.
Partner agencies responded to several incidents where float down participants required immediate assistance. This was due mostly to floats deflating. Sarnia Fire Rescue assisted one young woman who was ill and brought her safely back to shore where she was attended to by Lambton EMS. The Canadian Coast Guard and its Auxiliary assisted several locals and brought them safely ashore.
In total there were 464 persons assisted on the most on the American side by the United States Coast Guard and their partner agencies.
A campaign launched by the Canadian Coast Guard in the weeks prior to the event urging participants to wear lifejackets and the agency reported seeing more lifejacket use than in previous years.
To reduce the risk of injuries to floaters, Transport Canada restricted all non-response vessels from the St Clair River from noon till 8 p.m.
Mid-afternoon, one motorized pleasure craft departed Sarnia Bay and entered the safety zone where vessel traffic was restricted. The RCMP quickly intercepted the vessel, which returned to the Sarnia Bay Marina.
A Canadian Coast Guard helicopter patrolled the St Clair River throughout the afternoon which provided rescue coordinators with information about the whereabouts of floaters.
A few floaters were unaccounted for later in the day, but all were eventually located.
The Canadian response was a collaboration between the Canadian Coast Guard, law enforcement including the Sarnia Police Service, OPP, RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency, Lambton Emergency Management Services, Sarnia Fire Rescue and the Point Edward Fire department, the City of Sarnia, Transport Canada and the volunteers with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary.
“Working with our partners and thanks to great planning and ongoing collaboration, we ensured the response to the 2018 Float Down was an operational success,” saidMarc-André Meunier. the Canadian Coast Guard’s Regional Director of Incident Management. “The professionalism and great commitment of our search and rescue specialists, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, emergency services personnel and law enforcement personnel helped ensure participants were safe and that emergencies were rapidly and efficiently responded to,” he added.
Sarnia Police Services officer Giovanni Sottosanti spoke to Lambton Shield ahead of the Float Down as participants got ready to enter the water just north of the Lambton Area Water Supply System’s building.