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Summer's here - and so are rescues from Shady Island in Steveston

It happens every summer in Steveston with frightening regularity and many of the warnings still appear to be going unheeded.
Shady Island
Warning signs appear to do little to deter people from venturing over to Shady Island at low tide. File photo

It happens every summer in Steveston with frightening regularity and many of the warnings still appear to be going unheeded.

Despite multiple signs to the contrary, people – mainly teenagers – are still venturing out onto Shady Island at low tide and then getting trapped when the Fraser River inevitably rushes back in.

Two things usually unfold; they call 9-1-1 and either the Coast Guard or the RCMP’s Fraser Guardian vessel get despatched to help or they try to swim back.

It’s the latter of the two that gives Richmond RCMP sleepless nights, with rescues taking place as recently as last week.

“We received a call for service just last week about three teenagers who were trying to swim back from the island,” said Sgt. Ross Lundie, NCO I/C for the Richmond RCMP’s Fraser Guardian vessel.

Fraser River Guardian
Richmond RCMP's Fraser River Guardian vessel, which was involved in a rescue just last week. Photo submitted

“Fortunately, the three made it safely back to shore but the outcome could have been very different.

“My years on the RCMP dive team recovering drowning victims has shown me that many people over estimate their ability to swim or under estimate the distance and aren’t prepared for the cold and current.”

Shady Island is an untouched, undeveloped piece of natural land, situated in the South Arm of the Fraser by the Steveston waterfront.

A Steveston resident who lives on Princess Street – just 100 yards or so from the access point across to the island – called the Richmond News in the hope more awareness of the danger gets out.

“It happens every year around this time, with the weather getting better,” said the woman, who didn’t leave a name.

“I would hate for something terrible to happen. I watched the Coast Guard rescue someone recently and then I think it was the police boat last week.”

Richmond RCMP said it understands the lure of the island, but is at pains to remind people that they are actually trespassing when they cross over.

“The Fraser River that surrounds Richmond can be deceiving,” added Lundie.

“While on the surface it can sometimes look calm, it in fact is a fast flowing river with strong currents, undertows and rapidly changing conditions.

“We see boat operators with all the safety and proper navigation equipment run into issues on it. It is definitely not a place to be without proper safety equipment or to try and swim.”

Even though the RCMP would rather people didn’t go to Shady Island, at all, they still want them to call for help, instead of trying the hero route.