coming back alive
Two Teenagers Survive Miraculously

Two teenagers lost at sea for six days without food or fresh water in April 2005 proved that it really is possible to 'come back alive.' Fisherman spotted the boys more than 100 miles from where they started out, clinging to their small sailboat.

the boys
Troy (left) and Josh (right) as childhood friends

"I asked God to take me," 15-year-old Troy Driscoll said as he lay in a hospital emergency room. "You're out there fighting for your life.We didn't want to fight anymore."

Driscoll and his best friend, 18-year-old Josh Long, were spotted about seven miles off Cape Fear -- six days and more than 100 miles from where they had put off in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, on April 24.The boys were sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted, but otherwise in pretty good shape.

"We were praying for a miracle and we got one," Charleston Coast Guard Cmdr. June Ryan said. "Everybody on the East Coast has been looking for these boys."

Troy's brother, Shane Coker, said first he would hug him -- "then I'm gonna hit him and let him know how much he made us worry."

The teens set out on a 14-foot Sunfish on a blustery day when the National Weather Service warned small boats to stay off the water.They realized they were in trouble almost immediately and tried to swim back to shore, pulling the boat along with them.

Within hours, they were out to sea.

"We lost our tackle the second day," Driscoll told one of his relatives on the phone."So we couldn't catch any fish."

The boys' hope waned as the week wore on.They stood on their Sunfish every time they saw a boat, waving their paddles and yelling. One night they were awakened by water splashing in their faces and found a large container ship bearing down on them.

"It was like some monster building in the water," Driscoll said.

At one point, the teens thought they had drifted across the Atlantic Ocean and were close to Africa. Instead they were about 111 miles north -- well outside the Coast Guard's search grid -- but close enough to spot one more fishing boat.

They got up and made some noise.This time, they were heard.

"What we have is an absolutely miraculous story of survival that's going to be studied for years to come," said Richard Goerling, Long's uncle. "I think those two boys have a book to write."

The Coast Guard reviewed the case to see how the boys took a route so unanticipated by computer models and weather and nautical data.

The boys said they don't remember much about their rescue, but recalled that as they were pulled aboard the fishing boat, their rescuers asked what they wanted to do with the Sunfish.

"We told them we didn't want to see it again," Long said.
A Summer Birthday Bash Ends In Watery Death

A summer's evening birthday cruise quickly turned to tragedy and death on June 8, 2005, as a houseboat overloaded with as many as 70 people capsized into the dark waters of Okanagan lake.

Amateur video footage of the incident shows the overcrowded two-storey houseboat keeling over onto its left side before capsizing and spilling dozens of revellers from the top deck into the lake.

"It's going down! It's going down! Oh my God, it's really going down," an unidentified voice on the videotape cries. 

The boat named Swordfish left the dock at about 11 p.m. local time. When Mark Gast, who works on a wakeboard boat, pulled up alongside the houseboat, he yelled out to friends he saw onboard.

"I told them this boat is too unsafe, way too top heavy, it's going to go down, don't get on this boat. They said, 'Yeah, right.' Nobody believes it until it happens."

"As people were singing 'Happy Birthday', the back ends of the boat were dipping down into the water and then it just flipped," Gast said.

The boat capsized nearly 100 metres from shore, prompting area residents and emergency rescue workers who saw the incident to spring into action.

"There were several firefighters at Coyote's restaurant who unmoored another houseboat from the Water Street boat launch to go and assist people in the water," said Renee Blanleil, assistant chief of the Kelowna fire department.

"I arrived 15 minutes later and found general chaos on the scene."

Mr. Blanleil said that many of the passengers, who ranged in age from 17 to 25, were treated for shock.

The party-goers were mainly workers from a Kelowna restaurant called Earl's.

"The mood is definitely different [at work]," said Dave Gast, an Earl's employee who was not on the boat at the time but was close enough to help rescue many who were.

"It's like it happened to everybody."

While most people on board survived the ordeal, 20 year-old Camille Fry did not.

She was taken to Kelowna General Hospital in critical condition and died early the next morning, hospital officials said.

Two other survivors were taken to hospital in critical condition. 

However, police say this is an example of a tragedy that should have never happened. Passengers also questioned why so many people were on the boat, which was licensed to hold 30. The boat was more than twice overloaded. 

"We didn't really pay attention to how many people were coming on board, and unfortunately the worst happened," said Dion Edwards, who was on the houseboat when it tipped over.

Mr. Edwards was among other shocked survivors who gathered yesterday along the Kelowna shoreline, trying to find out what happened.

"I had friends that were trapped underneath and they had a pocket of air of maybe three inches for five minutes. You know they're under there but you're helpless to do anything -- it's a bad feeling," Mr. Edwards told reporters at the scene.

"The worst types of screams you can hear are when they're your friends and they desperately need help."

RCMP divers did not find any passengers in their exhaustive search of the lake area.

Officials said that no passengers were unaccounted for, although there was no list of who was on the houseboat at the time of the accident.

A statement on the website of Okanagan Waketours, the company that chartered the houseboat, said the company regrets that there had been a loss of life.

The boat was rented to third-party users, which the company describes as being "in accordance with our normal business practices."

A worker at Earl's, Camille's death has thrown her coworkers into shock.

"It's fairly obvious how everyone's feeling," said Crystal Lawrie, a bookkeeper and server at Earl's, "It's surreal."

Promotional Event Goes Wrong

Outdoor safety has no limits and without the proper precautions, any trip can turn tragic.

In June 2004, a raft carrying the mayor of Sherbrooke, Quebec and nine others capsized during a promotional event on the Magog River. The excursion was part of a plan to promote natural attractions around the city, 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

As a result, Forty-five-year-old Real Carbonneau, the director of wildlife protection for the Eastern Townships, drowned.

Police later found his body underwater, his foot trapped between two rocks. While he was wearing a helmet and lifejacket initially, they had come loose.

He was in the raft with nine other people, including Sherbrooke Mayor Jean Perreault, when it capsized in rapids after hitting a rock. The boat's other occupants were either pulled from the river by other rafters or were able to swim to safety. They were unharmed except for minor leg injuries caused by hitting rocks in the river.

Police say it took about an hour for people to notice Carbonneau was missing.

In the town of Sherbrooke, there is now a park named after Carbonneau, to honour his memory.


Sherbrooke, Quebec
 

 

Family Celebration Dashed By Tragedy

A birthday celebration turned tragic for eight-year-old Anthony Le when a swimming incident at Belwood Lake Conservation robbed him of his only two brothers.

On Sunday, June 11, 2005 around 2 p.m., the Le family had driven to the southern Ontario park to meet up with family and celebrate Anthony's eight year. The adults were busy setting up the barbecue and getting the birthday cake ready for the party.

The boys and their cousins headed for the lake. Anthony's 10-year-old cousin, Brandon, could swim a little, but none of the Le boys could.

There were no lifeguards on duty, nor any supervision; only a sign warning parents that the beach patrol service, which operated until 1996, has been discontinued and that the safety of their children is their responsibility.

Anthony's aunt went to the water's edge to keep an eye on them. However, she saw them playing together in shallow water and turned back to help with food preparation.

Minutes later, Brandon let out a frantic cry. He noticed someone was "flipping" in the water. He couldn't tell who it was, because he could only see "some hair near the surface of the water," said Anthony's uncle Linh Le.

It was Anthony, the birthday boy. He was pulled from the murky water by other swimmers.

"Everybody was round Anthony," said Charles, the boy's father.

Suddenly Truc Le, the boy's mother realized her other two boys were also in the water.

"All of a sudden she cried out that her other two sons were missing," said 50-year-old Torontonian Keith Whittaker, who was fishing nearby with his son. "It was terrible."

Several people on the beach, including paramedics and police, jumped into the water and began searching for the missing boys.

"It was the worst day of my life," said Whittaker's son, Mark, 22.

About 10 minutes later, Eddie Rivera, 28, dove deep into the water and scooped the two boys from the lake bottom, carrying them to the surface.

"It was just cold and dark," he said yesterday. "I knew I was going to run into a face. I guess I was more or less scared."

The boys were swimming at a former quarry site that has been transformed into a bathing area. The designated swimming zone, which is about one metre deep, is roped off with a floating line of white buoys. Beyond that line, the bottom drops off sharply, reaching a depth of five metres in the centre.

After the boys were rescued from the area, CPR was administered, but Larry Le, Anthony's 9-year-old brother, died that day in Groves Memorial Hospital in Fergus.

Anthony's younger brother, 7-year-old brother Calvin Le suffered a serious brain injury, was rushed to the same hospital and later airlifted to Sick Kids hospital. He remained in critical condition until his death the next day.

His parents donated his major organs to help other children live.

Anthony was taken to Hamilton's McMaster Hospital, and then transferred for recovery to Sick Kids.

When he first woke up, Anthony couldn't recall the accident and was conscious and aware only part of the time. "He has lost some of his memories," said Linh.

Anthony didn't realize he was in a hospital. He thought he was with his brothers, so he kept asking for Larry.

"He thought he was on the second floor and Larry was waiting to play with him on the ground floor," Truc Le, the boys' mother, told the uncle.

"The three boys always played together. When one is missing, the other two would instantly look for him," the uncle said.

Truc wasn't sure she should tell the boy the truth. At first, hoping to spare him pain, she told him simply, "Larry is away."

But the doctors advised the parents to tell the boy what had really happened.

When Anthony heard his brothers were dead, he burst out crying.

Charles Le, 41, a machinist at KK Precision Industries in Toronto, bought a new Dodge Caravan only last week. Larry's sandals and Calvin's slippers are still in the minivan.

"I chose the red colour, because it's Larry and his mother's favourite colour," he said, his voice catching in his throat.

He also bought a new barbecue. Sunday was the first time they used it.

At the boys' elementary school, St. Jane Frances Catholic School on Jane Street in North York, principal Maria Cioppa said the community was shocked and saddened by the news.

Mary Jo Deighan, a spokeswoman for the Catholic School Board, said counselling services will be provided at the school for the next several days.

"This shows how important it is to look after children," Ms. Deighan said. "Never let them out of your sight, not even for a second."

"If only we knew the other two kids were missing when we were all watching to make sure the first boy was living, we might have been able to do more."


RCMP Died Without A PFD

Const. Joseph Martial Jean Minguy, known by friends and colleagues as Jean, drowned the afternoon of June 3, 2005, after he fell out of a police Zodiac on regular patrol. He was only a few hundred metres off shore from the Vernon Yacht Club.

According to witnesses, he broke the surface of the water, flailing on two occasions, before disappearing below the waves. His body was found 400 metres west of where he went in.

Cpl. Henry Proce estimated the 23-year veteran of the RCMP was wearing as much as eight kilograms of equipment, including his duty belt and a bullet-proof vest.

Minguy was not wearing a lifejacket.

The Zodiac carries up to two passengers, but Proce wouldn't say how many were on board when Minguy went in.

The mood at the Vernon RCMP detachment remained sombre, with lots of tears and sad faces, Proce reported.

"There are about 55 members here, and everyone knew him well. He was a very outgoing, charismatic person and he will be sorely missed -- is already sorely missed. It's a very sad accident -- just tragic."

Gord Molendyk, a community police officer from the Safe Communities unit, was in shock a few hours after Minguy's body was recovered.

"I had just talked to him a couple of days ago. We just talked about his retirement plan."

Molendyk described the 46-year-old Mountie as a character, a hard worker and someone who was direct, but who had a magnetic personality.

"People were drawn to him," he said. "We'll miss him at hockey next year."

Minguy left behind an estranged wife and two sons, aged 13 and 11. His mother and two sisters live in Quebec.

In addition to the loss felt by his immediate family, friends and colleagues, Vernon Mayor Sean Harvey said the community had also been affected. Minguy had been stationed in Vernon for nine years.

"I think a sombre, sorrowful mood probably best captures what the community is feeling right now," Harvey said.

The search for Minguy's body involved Vernon Search and Rescue, the Okanagan Landing Fire Department and the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team.

Divers from the Kootenays, Kelowna and Kamloops were brought in.

On Sunday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans brought in a remote operating vehicle with side- scanning sonar and underwater camera, which police say was pivotal in locating the body in visibility of between two and three metres.

Minguy's body was brought to shore and draped with a Canadian flag, about two hours after it was found on June 6. It was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital, where an autopsy will be performed.

"At least we got him out of there," Proce said.

"He was very well thought of, a friend of everybody, and it's had a sobering effect on all of us," Cpl. Henry Proce said.

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