During the afternoon hours of May 31, the Brooks RCMP, Brooks Fire Department, and Alberta Conservation authorities responded to three separate calls of stranded boaters on Lake Newell, near Brooks.
As a result of high winds with gusts of approximately 80 km/hr, large waves developed on Lake Newell, making for extremely dangerous boating conditions. At approximately 4 p.m., the first call for service was received reporting that due to the extreme conditions, a kayaker ended up washing ashore on the southern side of Lake Newell.
The individual did not know their location; however, they were located by the Brooks Fire Department a short time later and transported to safety.
The second call for service was received at 5:30 p.m., where it was reported that a family of five on a large pontoon boat were unable to return to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park due to the weather and lake conditions. The family found themselves stranded on an island with limited shelter from the elements. The waves were estimated to be 1 to 1.5 m tall at the time and as a result, no rescue boats were able to launch from the main boat launch. With the help of a local resident, the Brooks RCMP, along with the Brooks Fire Department, were able to launch a medium sized Zodiac rescue boat in Jackfish Bay which was somewhat sheltered from the wind and large waves. Rescuers made two trips to the island transporting everyone back to safety. By the time the family had called for help and were rescued, they had spent almost 7 hours in the elements with limited supplies and clothing to keep them warm.
The third call for service was received at 6:35 p.m., where it was reported that a small aluminum fishing boat with one occupant was caught on the water as the winds had increased. The boat was blown to shore north of the Kinbrook Island Provincial Park. The boater was able to provide their location to the Brooks RCMP who engaged the Alberta Conservation Authorities and the male was located and transported back to safety a short time later.
The Brooks RCMP and Fire Department would like to take this opportunity to remind boaters that prior to boating in the region to:
1. Check local weather reports and forecasts.
2. When on the water, boaters should be continuously monitoring the weather as lake conditions can turn quickly on Lake Newell due to its size, location, and lack of cover from landscape.
3. Boaters are also reminded to ensure they carry all their mandatory boat safety equipment such as life jackets, signalling devices, bailing containers, and are encouraged to carry extra supplies such as food, water, and clothing to aid in their well-being should they become stranded.
It should be noted that all individuals rescued had cell phones that not only allowed them to call for help quickly, but allowed them to send their GPS location to rescuers. This technology allowed for all individuals to be quickly located and rescued.