Instructor Jamie Turko

Making kids river wise

Merrily tweeting their whistles, Monday’s young cohort of students took a mid-morning break to warm up

If a certain group of young Campbell Riverites ever gets in trouble on the water, it shouldn’t be hard to find them.

Just follow the whistles.

Garbed in pint-sized dry suits, personal flotation devices, helmets and bearing distinctive, fluorescent-green whistles, the first group of youths age 5-8 hit the rapids in the RiverWise Safety Program Monday below the logging bridge across Campbell River.

The course, which includes sessions for youths 9-12, for teens and adults, continues through Friday. It is led by Jamie Turko, proprietor of Destiny River Adventures and a longtime Search and Rescue volunteer.

The RiverWise program was developed in the early 1990s by Rescue Canada, to increase safety and awareness on the water, particularly in swiftwater environments.

This is the second year Turko has offered the program to local youth and adults, with sessions during spring break and in early summer, just after school lets out.

“Many people every year lose their lives in moving water,” said Turko, who has twice experienced near-drowning situations himself. “We’re teaching kids how to play safe, to recognize hazard areas, how to save themselves, to assist each other in teams and how to recognize when they’re getting cold.

The next lesson will be on foot entrapment and full-body entrapment.”

Turko taught the youngsters both hand/arm signals and whistle-blast methods to communicate in the swift-flowing spring water as the youngsters piloted paddle boards and learned rope-rescue techniques.

Merrily tweeting their whistles, Monday’s young cohort of students took a mid-morning break to warm up in the Destiny tours bus while enjoying hot chocolate and snacks. Then they returned to the water for more play and instruction.

“Last year when I started, the course was very popular and parents were asking when I was holding it again,” said Turko, who took enrolment through Facebook and word of mouth. “I can only take so many students before I’d need another instructor.”

Ryder Ellis splashes from Campbell River as James Shaw follows. J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror