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Off-roaders who got stuck in Nanaimo River estuary could face charges

Two vehicles towed following incident May 27
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The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is investigating after Nanaimo RCMP retrieved four people whose vehicles became mired in the mud while off-roading on the Nanaimo River estuary near Raines Road on Monday, May 27. (News Bulletin file photo)

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is investigating a mud-bogging incident that left two vehicles stuck in the Nanaimo River estuary near Cedar.

The vehicles became stuck in the estuary Monday, May 27, and had to be abandoned because the tide was rising and the four male vehicle occupants, ages 16-21, were at risk of being stranded on the estuary or having to swim to shore.

According to reserve Const. Gary O’Brien, a Nanaimo RCMP officer who attended the scene off of Raines Road at about 8:30 p.m. paddled out in a borrowed canoe and ferried the vehicle occupants to shore.

“There was concern, as the tide was rising, they were effectively going to be cut off,” O’Brien said. “They were approximately 40 metres out, but the tide was rising quick, so one of our members commandeered a canoe and paddle … put his lifejacket on, paddle out, and after a couple of trips out he brings all the kids back and they were very grateful, but having said that, [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] was not so grateful, because that’s a protected estuary.”

Nanaimo River estuary is the largest on Vancouver Island, according to the Nature Trust of B.C., with a sensitive ecosystem that is home to a wide range of plants and wildlife and is a protected area where the use of motor vehicles is prohibited.

Both vehicles were towed from the estuary Tuesday, May 28.

READ ALSO: Royston resident decries the use of vehicles on beaches

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is leading the investigation on behalf of the DFO and, according to a conservation service press release, COs are in contact with law enforcement and stakeholders including the nature trust and DFO as well as Snuneymuxw First Nation and Ducks Unlimited.

Violation tickets for mud bogging are $575, and other penalties could include towing, impoundment of vehicles and other expenses related to habitat restoration.

Depending on the circumstances and location of the offence, offences may fall under the wildlife act, motor vehicle (all terrain) act, forest range and practices act or the federal fisheries act, the release noted.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Report All Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

READ ALSO: Nature Trust of B.C. works to enhance freshwater flow in Nanaimo Estuary

READ ALSO: Man rescued from Nanaimo River estuary after canoe overturns