Watch above: Authorities are issuing a warning for those heading out onto the river after a series of incidents this past month. RCMP say there have been three rescue efforts along the Pembina River alone. Eric Szeto reports.
EDMONTON – Authorities are issuing a warning for those heading out onto the river after a series of incidents this past month.
The recent rescue of tubers on the Pembina River using Edmonton police’s Air 1 was the third time in one month EMS and a helicopter had to be used in a rescue there.
On Tuesday night around 7:30, Evansburg RCMP received a cell phone call from some tubers on the river.
Seven young women from Edmonton were tubing down the river, but overshot their exit point, and told RCMP they were lost. RCMP looked into the complaint and then asked for help from the Edmonton Police Service helicopter Air 1. The Air 1 crew found the group and made what RCMP call a “precarious landing” to check on the tubers.
One young woman was flown to a nearby ambulance because the first responders were concerned about exposure to the elements. The other six girls had to wait some time, and were rescued by the Yellowhead County and Parkland County fire departments, and EMS.
RCMP say the entire rescue operation took about 10 hours. The last tubers were rescued from the river at approximately 5:30 a.m. Officials describe the area as remote, and say they had to cut through dense bush to access the river on ATVs.
WATCH: Footage courtesy of the Edmonton Police Service’s Air 1 helicopter
RCMP say this is the third time in the past month that EMS and a helicopter had to be used for such a rescue.
In one instance, a kayaker drowned and was found several kilometres downstream of the Pembina Provincial Park.
“This person was a novice kayaker, put in at the campground here in Evansburg and went for a kayak,” said Sgt. Jim Desautels, with Evansburg RCMP. “The river was running a little faster then, this person’s lack of experience, and I think lack of preparation didn’t bode well for him and he eventually died.”
Officers say river tubing and kayaking can be extremely dangerous – even deadly.
“It can make it very dangerous,” said Desautels.
“People forget that, even in summer, hypothermia can strike.
“You can injure yourself from a fall, there’s sun exposure, dehydration. Those things are very serious if not treated.”
Officers are reminding people that the Pembina River is a wilderness area. It is not patrolled or easily accessed by emergency crews. Anyone heading out on the river should know where they’re going and make basic survival preparations.
“Just showing up with a cellphone isn’t probably going to be enough,” Desautels added.
Being unprepared, and being on the river for a long period of time, can result in hypothermia, heat exposure, and dehydration, among other potential hazards.
On average in the summer, Evansburg RCMP respond to a few calls each week to help search for lost tubers.
“It’s not just this year,” said Desautels. “It happens every year where we have people who come to Evansburg and Entwistle tubing and they just don’t anticipate the dangers that are there.”
Most calls, officials say, are resolved without calling in any additional resources.