A life was lost Wednesday (May 12) at Porteau Provincial Park and critics of the federal government are saying rescue efforts were hampered by the lack of a rescue hovercraft in the Lower Mainland.
The fatal scuba diving accident happened early in the afternoon when a male diver from Vancouver became separated from his female dive partner.
The RCMP was called at 1:15 p.m., according to Sgt. Colin Worth of the Squamish RCMP. Worth said through a news release that the police asked for help from the Canadian Coast Guard. Assistance was requested from Sea Island Station, 442 Squadron Rescue 901 at Comox and the Coast Guard vessel Osprey from Kitsilano Station.
A military dive team flew from Comox and a Coast Guard dive team decided to drive through Vancouver and along Hwy. 99 with a police escort from Kitsilano Station. The Kitsilano dive team did not have the option of using the Lower Mainland's rescue hovercraft because both vessels were currently out of commission.
The hovercraft can take a more direct route than a vehicle and there is speculation that if the vessel were available the Coast Guard dive team response time would have been quicker.
"A drive up the highway is absurd," said MP John Reynolds when he learned of the tragic death from The Chief.
"A drive up the highway is unacceptable.
"This government has promised us that the hovercraft would be working. We've lost lives before because the hovercraft is out of service."
Andy Howell, a Rescue Coordinator in Victoria, said his centre was alerted of the situation and a minimum of eight rescue divers were sent to Porteau to search for the missing diver. Howell reported that the female diver surfaced and called for help because her dive partner was still under the water.
"That diver was recovered and turned over to EHS [ambulance]," Howell said.
According to Worth, the male, 43, was taken to Squamish General Hospital but the victim didn't recover from his injuries.
"The male diver had been filming underwater when he ran into difficulties and became separated from his diving partner," Worth said.
A police investigation into the circumstances leading up to the death is under way. The name of the man was not available as of The Chief's deadline as police had not notified the victim's next-of-kin.