UPDATED: Six teenagers rescued from Northumberland Strait

Staff ~ The News
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This coast guard vessel from Pictou did respond to the call for help but by the time they got there, everyone had already been rescued.

PICTOU COUNTY – A YMCA Big Cove camp canoe trip ended with six teenagers being rescued by helicopter and boat from the Northumberland Strait Tuesday afternoon.

Two staff and seven teenage campers were out on a canoe trip when weather conditions made it so that three of the four boats couldn’t get to shore, according to Benjamin Davis, chief operating officer with Big Cove Camp.

One boat with one staff member and two campers made it to shore and the staff person immediately initiated emergency procedures, calling the Coast Guard and the Big Cove Camp.

“They were adrift in high winds approximately one kilometre offshore,” Major Martell Thompson of the Joint Task Force Atlantic’s Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax said.

He said they received the call for rescue shortly after 12 p.m.

In response, a Cormorant Helicopter and Hercules Helicopter from 413 Squadron and the Pictou inshore rescue boat were tasked to rescue the six boaters.

Those rescued included an 18-year-old and five others ranging from age 14 to 16.

“Two of them were picked up by the Cormorant Helicopter. The remaining four were picked up by an inshore rescue boat,” Thompson said. “All six had PFDs, maps, compasses and bailers, so they were well equipped.”

Thompson said the rescue didn’t take long after the call was received and all six teenagers are “safe and sound now,” with no injuries reported.  

“The safety and wellbeing of the children, youth, teens, and staff is of the utmost importance to 
the YMCA and we are taking this situation very seriously,” Davis said.

He said this is the first time in the time he’s been there that something like this has happened. He said they’ll be making sure they find out exactly what happened. He said they do have training about what weather is appropriate to go out in, but sometimes weather can change quickly along the Northumberland shore.

“We’re certainly very thankful for the support of the rescuers,” he said.

Organizations: YMCA, Rescue Coordination Centre

Geographic location: Pictou County, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • A concerned parent
    July 24, 2013 - 16:41

    This has happened before. It was not as serious. Inexperienced children should not be out on the sea and definitely not in canoes. I am farthest thing ever from bubble wrapping my kids. I have very serious concerns about WHY children would set out in those conditions with that forecast. What will it take to get some answers? Do we need a drowning of one of our sons grandsons nieces or friends kids to get some straight answers. The safety protocols should be on their website. If you sent you kid to work at McDonald's and t hey burned themselves due to poor safety procedus you would be suing and raising hell. All I am saying is high winds and the ocean and inexperience is a lethal combination. Just as much as water dark speed and alcohol. Stop defending and start explaining? But I am sure the Y has lawyered up. and they hope the news slips away. UNTIL the next time. Let's prevent the next time

    • That Guy
      July 24, 2013 - 19:53

      Again, you have concerns don't send your kids. Other parents made up their minds and allowed their children to venture to sea. Weather patterns can change in a matter of minutes, it can be a bright and sunny sunny day with a light breeze and quickly turn to a heavy gale. These teens were well equipped to be on the water (as stated by the rescue teams), on top of that I found canoeing fairly easy to pick up. In cases like this where you're fighting tides and winds, it doesn't matter how experienced of a paddler you are, the weather will win, the other boat was lucky enough to have stronger paddlers to get to shore before being dragged out. On top of that, it's just about impossible to drown while wearing a PDF, safety protocols are in place and were used. You can continue to live in your fantasy land. As for the rest of us, we are firmly rooted in reality where we want our children to adventure and have fun.

  • GGC Leader
    July 24, 2013 - 13:04

    Being part of an organization with some of the strictest safety procedures ever in place, I commend the staff of the YMCA Camp for immediately calling in help before a bad situation became a tragic one. Sounds like these participants were well equipped and prepared for the situation. Nothing (in this article) gives me the impression that the staff made bad choices!! Weather changes, without notice, often. That cant be avoided by even the best weather trackers in the world. Well done!-To all those involved in the rescue!

  • jack brooks
    July 24, 2013 - 11:36

    what is the sense of posting a comment when they hardly get posted and I bet this one will not be either

  • jr
    July 24, 2013 - 10:59

    You have to look at the entire incident instead of pointing fingers. I am an avid boater on the Strait and I know how fast the weather can change there. If the canoes were close to shore, it does not mean that the wind will not push them out. One made it to shore and maybe they had stronger paddlers. The main thing si that they "do" have procedures in place in case of such an accident and they worked the way it was supposed to. Besides the helicopters, the CCGA would also be on the water or nearby to respond. The auxilary has many vessels they can call on in the strait and other areas. The kids stayed calm enough not to upset the canoes and that alone should be commended.

  • just thinking
    July 24, 2013 - 10:20

    realist are you for real. it can happen to any one that loves the water weather can change in a second on the water at least they were wearing pfd's more than I can say for most people on the water.what does the old y have to do with the new one the new one is bigger and we could stand to have it even bigger.

  • dave leask
    July 24, 2013 - 10:03

    Great to hear that everyone is safe and sound. It is good to see that Big Cove is still doing fantastic adventures with the campers, and that they have the right safety procedures in place to deal with such an event. I was a camper there for 8 years and then 4 years as a counselor leading such canoe trips. They do about 25 such trips a year. Of course there will be the odd time that the weather turns bad and emergency procedures must go into effect. That is true with everything in life. My 12 year old is there right now and will be going out on a 2-3 day canoe trip during his two week stay. I will never bubble wrap my kids. D Leask

  • dave leask
    July 24, 2013 - 10:02

    Great to hear that everyone is safe and sound. It is good to see that Big Cove is still doing fantastic adventures with the campers, and that they have the right safety procedures in place to deal with such an event. I was a camper there for 8 years and then 4 years as a counselor leading such canoe trips. They do about 25 such trips a year. Of course there will be the odd time that the weather turns bad and emergency procedures must go into effect. That is true with everything in life. My 12 year old is there right now and will be going out on a 2-3 day canoe trip during his two week stay. I will never bubble wrap my kids. D Leask

  • Vjamb
    July 24, 2013 - 09:54

    The YMCA camp is not run by Pictou County YMCA it is run out of Dartmouth. Most of the kids there are from all over Canada. These things do happen and they are well prepared for it.

  • Another concerned voice
    July 24, 2013 - 09:48

    This was a 10-13 tripping excursion and I question the training and experience that these children are getting prior to the trip. I know a camper who participated in this program previously, and while nothing as scary or dangerous happened during her adventure, she did not have extensive training/experience prior to her trip. And if I read correctly the Staff member was only 18 years old themselves. As a parent, I would have some serious questions about this program and how it is run.

    • That Guy
      July 24, 2013 - 12:25

      If you have such concerns, don't send your kids. Parents know their kids are going on this trip, with their counselors. Things like this happen, everyone is safe. No big deal. If you're concerned about boating experience then you better send you kids to canoe camp first. No other way to learn than do.

    • C
      July 24, 2013 - 13:45

      As a former employee of the Big Cove Camp, and a current parent, I can and will ensure you that part of the programming, as most parents who send their children there know, is out-trips on the ocean, as well as to other locations. These 18 year old counselors are well trained, and hired based upon qualification. These kids are there to learn surviving, and experiencing all that life has to offer. Part of canoe out-trips are possibilities such as this. The camp is run out of Halifax-Greater Dartmouth area, there is no affiliation with the Pictou County YMCA. Congrats to the rescue team and the knowledge/training of the Big Cove Staff.

  • Richard & Esther Provencher
    July 23, 2013 - 21:11

    Congratulations to the Rescue Team and the leadership of the youth who did not wait to call for help. A terrible tragedy occurred in Ontario many years ago when thirteen young canoeing members of a private school drowned when a similar kind of storm took place. Also, the local canoeing enthusiasts had proper preparation, for such an emergency.

  • A concerned Parent
    July 23, 2013 - 17:27

    IS THIS THE FIRST TIME. What safety program is in place? what are the various metrics and SOP that they undergo before they decide on an ocean trip? There should be an investigation and the results made public. are all incidents documented?

    • kcco
      July 24, 2013 - 09:12

      ok calm down. Anyone who lives in the area knows how quickly weather conditions change. No one was injured and their safety plans worked without a hitch. Pointing the fingers at people will not change anything at this point. STOP BUBBLE WRAPPING YOUR KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Realist
    July 23, 2013 - 16:54

    I suppose this is somehow the Wellness Center's fault, day camp accidents never happened at the old Y location.

    • Jasmine MacKay
      July 24, 2013 - 11:41

      The Pictou County YMCA and the Pictou County Wellness Centre have absolutely nothing to do with the Big Cove Camp. The Big Cove Camp is owned and operated By the YMCA of Halifax. Blaming the owner because of mother nature is preposterous.