As marine investigators probe the cause of last weekends mini-tsunami at an apparently tranquil Steveston cove, it seems its not the first time people have almost lost their lives at the spot.
Representatives of the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) met Thursday morning with Stuart Sequeira and his dad, Mike, at Garry Point beach to relive their frightening experience.
On Saturday evening, the Sequeiras, including Stuarts two-year-old daughter, Chloe, almost drowned while shore fishing, after the tideline rapidly receded and then returned just as fast in the shape of a huge swell, which engulfed and swamped all three of them.
Brian Young, the PPAs director of marine operations, confirmed at the scene Thursday that he strongly suspects a displacement of water in the shipping channel from a large passing vessel caused the tsunami-like effect.
But it has happened before, according to one Richmond News reader, who was walking her dogs with her cousin last Thanksgiving at the exact location of Saturdays incident.
When I read the story, it was almost word for word what had happened to me, I couldnt believe it, said Mackenzie Biggar.
My cousin (Brandi) and I were sitting on the logs on the beach. One moment the dogs were in the water. I turned away, turned back and the dogs were on sand, the water had disappeared.
I grew up here and Ive never seen it go out so far so quickly. Within a few seconds this wall of water, not a wave, came rushing in.
The pair had barely turned their backs to get away when the surge slammed them into the logs that theyd been resting on.
Im five feet, eight and half inches tall and I was under the water, scrambling to get back up, Biggar recalled.
Thankfully, were good swimmers and we somehow managed to get to the surface and then back onto the shore.
I was so much in shock that I didnt even turn back to see what had happened. To this day, I still cant go back down there, I stay well away.
Biggar said she recalls a large vessel sailing passed a few minutes before the surge. Her family reported the incident to the police, as they were worried about an elderly woman they recalled seeing on the beach, but not after. Their fears, however, were unfounded and, as far as theyre aware, no other authorities got involved.
I see kids down on that beach all the time. It cant be safe, she added.
Biggars father, Larry, has a theory that extensive dredging around the Garry Point area may have created a steep bank, which is perhaps prone to underwater landslides when a large vessel gets too close to shore.
The PPAs Young, however, dismissed the suggestion, saying the receding of the tide and the subsequent surge is almost certainly caused by the rapid displacement of water.
When a large vessel travels through a narrow channel such as the ones out there, it pushes a lot of water out of the channel, Young explained to the Sequeiras on Thursday.
Water then rushes back into the channel, causing the shoreline to recede and then come back in again.
Young and the TSBs regional marine manager, Raymond Matthew, said they would examine the incident and report their findings to all the agencies concerned, including the City of Richmond.
However, they indicated that the likely outcome would be that of public awareness, rather than preventative measures.
City spokesman Ted Townsend said there are warning signs in the area about swimming due to the strong currents.
Weve never heard of this happening before, he said.
Its really (the PPAs) responsibility, but weve asked them to keep us updated and well review the situation.
I would expect them to take the appropriate action. But wed certainly take a look at it.
A floating dock was erected at the point in the summer to accommodate the recent Ships to Shore event.
And Townsend said that when ships docked (at the point) they expected some wakes from passing ships, so they had to make sure they were secured properly.
But we recognize its a working maritime harbour.
The floats, which the PPAs Young said have nothing to do with Saturdays incident, are getting moved as previously scheduled to a more sheltered spot for the winter.
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