Last summer the Wallace Fire Department made a significant investment in a rescue boat.
That investment paid off late Wednesday morning when firefighters were called to rescue a pair of five-year-old girls who were drifting out into the Northumberland Strait from Blue Sea Beach at Malagash.
“We were there within minutes and were able to get to them very quickly,” chief Tom Flynn said. “They were upset, scared and crying, but they were OK.”
Flynn estimates the pair were half a kilometre offshore when the rescue boat got to them.
Stephanie Thompson said her daughter and a friend were sitting on a pair of ‘floaties’ in what seemed to be a small pool of water at the beach near Malagash.
“I had only turned around for a minute or two when my oldest daughter came running up to tell me the other two wanted my help because they couldn’t get back in, they were floating away from the beach,” Thompson said. “There was hardly enough water in the pool for them the float, but I guess the tide was coming in and the wind was blowing. It happened so fast.
Thompson, who lives in Malagash, immediately started running after them and started swimming toward the two floaties, but the wind was quickly carrying them further from the beach.
“I was yelling to people on shore to call for help and I was swimming as fast as I could but could not catch up to them. I was yelling to them to paddle toward me, but they were moving too fast,” she said. “I reached the point where I had to go back to shore. I realized it was becoming an emergency and we needed help. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
Someone on shore did call 911 and the Wallace Fire Department as well as RCMP and EHS were dispatched. Thompson and others watched the rescue boat arrive on the scene and bring the two girls back to shore.
“They were little dots in the distance, but I could see the rescue boat get to them,” she said. “You can only imagine the relief we all felt at seeing the boat come to shore to bring the girls back in.”
The pair were checked out by EHS on the beach.
She’s so thankful for the quick action of the fire department and said the two girls did well not to panic and stayed on the floaties. She said she has life jackets for the girls, but because they were right next to the beach she didn’t make them put them on.
Thompson is also crediting the girls for not panicking or jumping off the floaties to try to swim to save themselves.
“They held hands so they wouldn’t become separated and my daughter told me she thought she saw a shark so they should stay in the boat,” Thompson said. “They probably didn’t see a shark but I’m so happy they stayed on their floaties.”
The fire chief said without the rescue boat the department would have had to find someone with a boat to get out to where the girls were. He said the offshore wind was carrying the two floaties diagonally away from Blue Sea Beach and they would’ve drifted further into the Northumberland Strait.
He said the department decided to raise the money last year to purchase the rescue boat after being called out three times last summer to respond to people in distress offshore. The department acquired the boat late in the summer and used it at least once before Wednesday’s rescue.
“It definitely paid for itself today,” Flynn said.
Fire departments in Shinimicas and Tidnish Bridge also have rescue boats and the Pugwash Fire Department is trying to acquire one of its own.