Rafters keep police, fire fighters busy

Firefighters had to rescue rafters from the Bow River during a busy long weekend that saw police officers hand out hundreds of tickets.
Abandonded rafts left by a garbage can on Tuesday morning following a busy weekend on the rivers. (Alana Cole/CBC)
Firefighters had to rescue rafters from the Bow River during a busy long weekend that saw police officers hand out hundreds of tickets.

In three of four rafting accidents Monday afternoon, the rafters made it safely to shore and fire fighters only had to retrieve their belongings. However, one rafter got stuck when a raft overturned after striking an abutment on the 10th Street Bridge.

"Each of these incidents involved rafts striking bridge abutments. The Calgary Fire Department would like to remind all river users to exercise caution when approaching bridge abutments," firefighters said in a press release.

Finding a group of rafters drinking alcohol without life jackets on was a common sight, said Const. Ed Perkins, one of the officers patrolling the river. And this past long weekend was the busiest in recent memory for raft traffic, but also for public drunkenness, he said.

"The atmosphere is very similar to what I saw on the Red Mile, just with the amount of open alcohol and the partying," said the police officer, referring to celebrations in the downtown area around the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"The concern obviously is of course that amount partying and intoxication levels that I saw are on a waterway."
Calgary has a bylaw that requires rafters on Calgary's Bow and Elbow rivers to wear life jackets. ((CBC))

Matthew Farcus, who rents rafts from Lazy Day Raft Rentals, said he has to constantly explain to renters that Calgary has a bylaw that requires rafters on Calgary's Bow and Elbow rivers to wear life jackets.

"It's really surprising that's one of the most common questions actually we get."

Nearly half of drowning deaths in Alberta are due to alcohol or drug intoxication.