It’s been more than three days and there is still no sign of Travis Van Hill, whose shrimp boat capsized on Okanagan Lake during a storm Monday night, July 24.
The boat captain’s wife, Kim Van Hill, is frustrated by the amount of red tape around rescuing her husband’s remains from the boat, the tip of which can be seen poking above the waters of Okanagan Lake near Ellison Provincial Park.
“A dive team from Vancouver, the dive lead, said he’s never been in this type of rescue and he’s been doing it for 16 years,” she said of the process which has taken too long to recover Travis’ body.
“Search and Rescue said this should have been done (Tuesday).”
It is presumed that Travis is trapped in the boat, and Kim explained that WorkSafeBC needs to sign off on the recovery before the RCMP dive team can retrieve Travis from the boat.
“Worker’s comp won’t let us save him if he is in the bow air pocket because of paperwork,” Kim said.
In a request for comment, WorkSafeBC simply said it has launched an investigation into the incident.
“The purpose of our investigation is to identify the cause of the incident, including any contributing factors, so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future,” a spokesperson for WorkSafeBC said in an email. The spokesperson did not say precisely when the investigation was launched, or how long it will take.
David Young, owner of Anchors Aweigh Marine Services in Vernon, is a family friend of the missing boat captain. He says the wait for answers and the slow-moving investigation is “ridiculous.”
Young got a call at 2 a.m. Tuesday about the capsized boat, and was on the water alongside the RCMP and Vernon Search and Rescue by 3 a.m.
There was another boat on the water at the same time Van Hill’s boat capsized. Young said he was told by the other boat captain that Van Hill put out a mayday distress signal and that his last words over the radio were “I’m going down.”
A search is also underway for a kayaker who went missing on Kalamalka Lake during the same storm on Monday night.
Boats such as the one Van Hill was captaining are designed to remove Mysis shrimp from Okanagan Lake. According to the Okanagan Basin Water Board, Mysis shrimp were introduced to Okanagan Lake in the 1960s as a way to provide food for Kokanee salmon. However, the introduction of the species ended up interrupting the food chain as the Mysis shrimp began competing for food with the Kokanee salmon fry.