A new boat is a big deal for the volunteers of the Legacy Water Search and Recovery Society.
The locally-based group is on call to deal with the worst case scenario following a boating disaster.
They use sidescan sonar to try to locate the bodies of drowning victims in B.C. Recovering bodies can help bring closure to families who have lost loved ones.
On the B.C. Day long weekend, the society’s vice president Jim Ward had a big smile as he accepted the keys to a Kingfisher that will be the society’s first permanent boat.
“It’s the next level,” Ward said. “For us to go further, we had to have it.”
Soon to be installed on the boat will be a donated winch system that will allow the team to deploy a much larger Imagenex sidescan sonar.
Right now the team puts a 60 pound sonar “fish” – a torpedo-shaped unit dragged on a line – into the water by hand.
With a winch, they can deploy a much larger unit, 120-150 pounds, that will be more stable, extend range and depth of scans, and increase image recognition.
“This has always been a goal from day one,” said Ward.
Some B.C. lakes are so deep that the smaller sonar unit couldn’t reach the bottom, Ward said. Even parts of Pitt Lake are quite deep, fairly near to the shore.
The lack of a permanent boat also meant using borrowed boats, which couldn’t have their sonar equipment permanently set up.
It meant that their craft were seldom ideal, and they didn’t have a permanent platform for training their team.
The core group of volunteers and organizers of Legacy Search are the friends and families of Brendan Wilson and Austin Kingsborough.
The two young men drowned after their canoe capsized on Nicola Lake three years ago.
The difficulty of locating their remains inspired the creation of Legacy Search.
Ward, Brendan’s uncle, assist the families and make themselves available to the RCMP.
Typically, once a search operation turns into an attempt at recovery, the RCMP will do their own scans and searches.
However, they often have limited time and resources for such a task.
Legacy Search offers to work with the Mounties on the efforts.
“We’re there 100 per cent to assist in absolutely anything they need,” said Ward.
Last year Legacy Search was called out to look for three people around the province.
This year, so far, they’ve had zero calls. That’s the way Ward likes it.
“We’d rather educate people than recover,” he said.
The group is involved with a number of lifesaving societies and works to pass the word about safe boating and general water safety.
Their ultimate goal is not to be needed at all. They’d much prefer to see everyone get back to shore safely.
This year, there might be a chance to see the new boat and meet some of the volunteers at the Langley Good Times Cruise-In. Legacy Search is one of the recipients of Cruise-In funds, and they will be at the annual event.