Danny Osborne presents fire chief Jim Miller with a cheque for $5

Danny Osborne presents fire chief Jim Miller with a cheque for $5

Hovercraft in sight for the Columbia Valley

A generous family has chosen to forego formal recognition after donating $5,000 to towards the cost of a new hovercraft.

A generous family has chosen to forego formal recognition after donating $5,000 to towards the cost of a new hovercraft.

“I was going to give them some suitable and appropriate recognition; however, they felt that they would just like to quietly support; they believe very strongly in the need,” Danny Osborne, the project’s fundraising initiator, told The Echo.

While the family minimized its publicity, Osborne did what he could to show the fire department’s appreciation.

“I gave them a tour of the firehall; they had a young lad about six years old or so, and Jim let him sit in and stand on the truck, and that sort of business,” he said. “The family got a chance to hear from [fire chief] Jim [Miller]; some of the types of issues he has to deal with in performing these kinds of rescues, and the number of incidents per year and so forth.”

The Calgary-area family owns a second home in the area.

Osborne, whose son nearly died on the lake on Boxing Day in 2011, said the family recognizes that more people are taking advantage of the opportunities the frozen ice surface offers in the winter.

“They agreed that, as more people use it, risks will increase, just by definition… It would not look good on the community if there was a tragic incident on the Whiteway,” Osborne said.

While the hovercraft has been labelled an Ice Rescue Vehicle, it will serve year round as an emergency vehicle on almost any terrain.

The total cost of the new vehicle will be $55,000. Osborne said that after the $5,000 donation, the fundraising is just shy of the 25 per cent mark.

“We’re not counting on massive donations,” he said. “I think we’re going to get there one, two, five thousand at a time.”

Once private donations accumulate past the half-way point, Osborne said he’ll seek public support for the fundraiser through those municipalities that stand to benefit.

The project has the support of local Emergency Medical Services, the RCMP, the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, numerous community associations and various levels of local government.

“It will be deployed all across [the Columbia Valley] from Edgewater through to Canal Flats and it will be located at the Windermere Fire Department,” Osborne said. “Let’s say somebody goes into the lake or has some problem down on Columbia Lake; there will be a dispatching system to where it will be deployed to Columbia Lake.”

Currently, emergency crews in the region can reach ice-related accidents only on foot.

The hovercraft will be also be able to assist in a broad range of emergencies.

“I want the focus to be on the ice, but it’s not exclusively a winter solution,” Osborne said. “Let’s say you are kayaking from Athalmer to Radium, and something bad happens to you or someone in your party halfway there. This thing can scoot down the wetlands [and] perform the rescue with zero environmental damage.”

Osborne said the vehicle can manoeuvre through wetlands, among other ecosystems, without disturbing any habitats. “Because they’re so beautiful and environmentally friendly, you can drive these things down a tray of 24 uncooked eggs and not one egg will crack,” he joked.

While cheaper models are available, Osborne said the craft of choice is the most effective hovercraft for the price.

“Jim has selected the right one that he believes will do the job,” he said. “It will take the crew and a sufficient amount of safety equipment to and from the scene.”

If you would like to contribute towards Lake Windermere’s Ice Rescue Vehicle, contact Danny Osborne on his cell at 250-341-5038 or by e-mail at fromdannyo@gmail.com.