Chris Cameron, Pilot
– Stearns Rescue of the Year Award –
When It’s Good to Have Someone Up There Watching
It turns out that Harbour Air pilot Chris Cameron had more to celebrate than Canada Day last July 1st. His quick thinking saved the lives of three boaters that were fast succumbing to the effects of sudden cold water immersion in Whistler’s glacier-fed Green Lake.
Although it was a holiday for most, it was just another work day for the pilot. Chris Cameron was preparing his single-engine float plane for take off from Green Lake late in the afternoon of Canada Day to transport some 10 passengers to Vancouver when first he noticed off in the distance a capsized canoe, then three people struggling in the water. Chris Cameron calculated that the victims were more than 150 metres from shore and, as he rode up alongside them in the plane to help, he realized they were already suffering the effects of cold immersion; their motor functions were slowing down, and they were flailing helplessly in the water.
“These guys could not help themselves,” the 31-year-old Cameron said. ”I soon realized they could not get the boat righted.”
As he manoeuvred the plane in to help the three, one succeeded in gripping the side of the plane and then hoisted his two friends up onto the aircraft’s pontoon. Harbour Air has a boat at the Green Lake dock and Cameron radioed for help. He reported that all three were in pretty bad shape, suffering from hypothermia. In fact, he reported that one of them was unresponsive. “The one guy, said he was not going to make it to shore,” he said. “He was definitely lucky.”
Cameron, who has been with Harbour Air for three years, said that pilots often see boaters in distress when they’re over the lake and call for help. And he is very familiar with the temperature of Green Lake. “It is really cold in that lake and I realized they would not make it to shore. It only took a couple of minutes for everything to go really badly.”
RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton said Green Lake is not a body of water to take lightly. It may seem innocuous enough but, in his words, “Green Lake is glacier fed and very, very cold. You will not survive very long in that water. Any delay definitely reduces a victim’s chances of survival.”
All three boaters were treated at the nearby Whistler Clinic and released. Canada Day is a special day for Canadians, but this one will give a few people even more to celebrate next year, thanks to Chris Cameron.
Chris Cameron, a pilot with Harbour Air Ltd. in Richmond, BC. accepts the Stearns Rescue of the Year award from Ezio Sbrizzi (Vice President and General Manager of Stearns Canada, a division of Coleman Canada), Robert Marcovitch (CEO, Coleman).