RCMP, Edmonton police team up to rescue stranded rafters

Two Alberta RCMP detachments and Edmonton police teamed up on the weekend to rescue three rafters stranded overnight on the Athabasca River.

'The rivers are quite cold and they move very fast'

RCMP and Edmonton police teamed up to rescue three stranded rafters on the Athabasca River over the weekend. (CBC)

Two Alberta RCMP detachments and Edmonton police teamed up Sunday to rescue three rafters stranded overnight on the Athabasca River.

The people were rafting down the river on a homemade raft that tore when they tried to lower the anchor. They spent Saturday night on the river bank south of Emerson Bridge while they waited to be rescued.

"In the environment that we police and work in, time is of the essence," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Peter King. "Time can impact if people survive or not."

Edson RCMP responded Saturday night, and called on the Edmonton police helicopter to help locate the missing rafters. The helicopter pilot spotted the rafters on the banks of the river having a fire.

On Sunday morning, Edson RCMP set out to rescue the rafters but their boat to broke down.

Whitecourt RCMP stepped in to help, and together the two RCMP detachments got the rafters safely off the river.

"That working relationship with other police agencies is vital to the success of any operation and we just really appreciate the Edmonton Police Service and helicopter coming out and assisting us," said King. "We often rely on other detachments to assist whenever we are doing anything. We lean on each other quite heavily."

River rescues

The incident is the latest in a series of river rescues in Alberta this summer.

King said rescues on Alberta's rivers aren't "overly common," but it's always a possibility because of how many people use the rivers.

On Sunday, Edmonton police and fire crews rescued a woman in her 60s who was swept away by the current in the North Saskatchewan River.  

The woman went down to the river on Saturday night in the Highlands area to cool off.

"The current picked up and she was swept from the river bank and into the river," said Sgt. Jerrid Maze.

After being carried down the river, the woman was able to grab onto a pillar on one of the bridges near Rundle Park. An Edmonton city employee noticed her there on Sunday morning and called 911.

"She held onto the bridge for eight hours," said Maze. "People need to be aware that the rivers are quite cold and that they move very fast. The rivers most often have undercurrents that can sweep you away without warning."

The woman was taken to the hospital for symptoms of hypothermia, and has since has been released.

Be prepared

Maze said officers routine monitor and patrol the river during the summer months.

"River safety is a priority with the city of Edmonton to the point that the Edmonton police has created a river unit," Maze said.

Edmonton police and RCMP say people need to be adequately prepared before going in the river, whether to play or in a boat.

They said people should wear life jackets and let someone know where they are going.