Thousands of mourners gathered in Nelson, B.C., Saturday for a memorial for a search and rescue volunteer who drowned in the line of duty last month.

Sheilah Sweatman, 29, of Ymir, a small community near Nelson, died after falling from a boat during efforts to check a submerged car on the fast-flowing Goat River on June 29.

Family members, volunteers, police and paramedics from across the country attended Saturday's memorial, which included a procession through a downtown Nelson park as bagpipes played.

Her father Wynn Sweatman said she loved search and rescue work.

"Sheilah's dedication to search and rescue spring from a principal that you had to give back and help other people," he said. "In the end she sacrificed everything to help others."


Sheilah Sweatman, 29, fell into the Goat River while taking part in a rescue attempt on June 29.

CBC reporter Bob Keating attended the memorial. He said Sweatman, who was with Nelson Search and Rescue for 2½ years, was remembered fondly.

"Fellow searches say she was one of the most keen volunteers — always willing to take a call to help others," Keating said. "This is a memorial about a woman who gave her life trying to save others, and a thank you to the people who continue to do it."

There are three investigations underway looking into Sweatman's death.

The 29-year-old is the first search-and-rescue volunteer in B.C. to be killed in the line of duty in 15 years.

On July 7, 1996, three members of Canada's Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, known also as Provincial Emergency Program Air, died when their aircraft crashed and burned while searching for another small aircraft near Nelson, B.C.