It was a tense scene at The Valley Echo office last Wednesday afternoon. The tail end of our three-day Echoneer (Echo + Pioneer) production cycle is normally a welcome respite from the pressure of two back-to-back newspaper deadlines; but this day was different. When it came over the scanner that a one-year-old infant was floating on her own down Dutch Creek, time seemed to stand still for our staff before ticking by ever so slowly as bits and pieces of news by local RCMP and emergency crews — spaced out by what seemed like agonizingly long periods of silence — floated over the airwaves, informing us of any developments in the rescue.
Amid our fears, a STARS air ambulance arriving at the Invermere & District Hospital gave us hope for the baby’s survival,which grew when the helicopter took off — with the young victim inside — bound for Calgary.
Thankfully, this rescue story has a happy ending as the young girl is expected to make a full recovery.
How absolutely incredible that a child so young was able to survive such an ordeal. The exact details of the rescue will really only ever be known by the Search and Rescue personnel who attended the scene, but it goes without saying that the early June water temperature, the force of the current and any debris in the river channel make for a potentially lethal combination. That the victim ended up on a sandbar and not pinned against or under any obstacles is truly a miracle. And testimony to the level of Search and Rescue skills we have in the Columbia Valley is the speed at which the girl was spotted and saved.
Harrowing rescues such as this one — especially this one, since it involved a helpless, vulnerable baby — take their toll on the frontline responders, from Swiftwater rescue technicians to the nurses and doctors involved, who have to hold it together while the rest of us have the luxury of wringing our hands and holding back tears. Their emotional strength is commended as much as their physical strength and skills.