As of Wednesday, aug. 29, it will be exactly one month since a jet skier went missing following a crash on the South Thompson River and police have yet to find any sign of the man, who is presumed deceased.
RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said police have searched the river, but isn’t sure if Kamloops Lake has been patrolled.
“At this point, we’re waiting for the body to surface and we don’t know where that will be or when,” said Shelkie.
On the afternoon of July 29, two men riding separate jet skis on the river near Holman Road collided when one driver crashed into the other while attempting to make a U-turn. Both men went into the water, but only the one who made the turn resurfaced. He managed to make it back to shore and police soon arrived to search for the other man.
The RCMP’s dive team searched for the next two days, concentrating on an area between the Valleyview boat launch and the Lafarge Bridge.
Additional searches by local police via boat and the RCMP helicopter were held in the days that followed.
“We don’t make a conscious decision and say, ‘Let’s scale it back.’ We do everything that we can, up front, and then as time permits,” Shelkie said.
The missing jet ski operator — a man in his early 30s — was wearing a life jacket at the time, but it was one that had to be manually deployed and police are not sure if it had been activated.
The other jet skier was uninjured, Shelkie said, noting there are no charges pending against the man who crashed into the boater who went missing.
The accident was the second of two jet ski crashes that occurred on the river in that area in a two-month span.
In May, two other jet ski operators collided on the river in a similar area, but both survived. One man sustained a leg injury while his friend broke a toe.
In both accidents, the boaters knew each other and were out on the water together.
“People need to practise proper boating safety,” Shelkie said, noting boating comes with similar responsibilities to driving a car.
“People need to wear proper floatation devices, maintain your distance between vehicles — whether it’s a manually powered boat or a boat with an engine — don’t drink and drive,” she said.
City officials have cautioned boaters to operate their vessels in a safe manner, but noted the municipality has no jurisdiction over the rivers.
Byron McCorkell, the city’s community and protective services director, said the last conversation he remembers the city having regarding safety on the rivers was 10 years ago, when some boaters suggested a speed limit between the bridges.
“There is more and more boating activity on the river. I think it’s a conversation the community might want to have [now],” McCorkell said, adding it would be up to council to determine whether it would support raising such a concern with the appropriate level of government.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he thinks behaviour on the river is the problem.
“The main thing here is respect that river,” he said, noting the rivers are more dangerous than they seem due to the currents. “It’s much different than aquatic activities on a lake.”
Transport Canada sets and enforces regulations for boaters.
Until 1999, anyone could operate a boat, regardless of boating safety knowledge, experience or training. Today, boaters must obtain a proof of competency, such as a pleasure craft operator card.