Canoeists rescued in near disaster on lake

Tragedy was averted for 21 students and teachers after strong winds capsized canoes on Echo Lake, northeast of Regina.

Tragedy was averted for 21 students and teachers Thursday after strong winds capsized some canoes on Echo Lake, about 70 kilometres northeast of Regina.

Seventeen of the 21 people on a school trip were able to swim or paddle back to shore, and an RCMP rescue boat saved the other four.

The four were pulled out of the water, including one boy who initially was not breathing. Rescuers were able to revive him in the boat.

"[We] spotted people in life-jackets, headed over to them [and] pulled them into the boat," Const. Brian Lauridsen, one of the officers in the RCMP boat, told CBC News.

"They were cold. They were distressed, panicked," he said. "Once they got out of the cold water they were a lot better."

Lauridsen put blankets around them and hurried back to a dock where EMS crews were waiting.

He said they were taken to hospital in nearby Fort Qu'Appelle to be treated for hypothermia, and were reported in stable condition by midafternoon.

All of the people except one were wearing life-jackets, RCMP said. That youngster had been wearing a flotation device, but it was not with him when he was plucked out of the water.

"They were canoeing in the calmer water," Lauridsen said of the misadventure. "The wind changed direction and they ended up in the bigger waves."

The group was from the Peepeekesis First Nation near Balcarres.