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Thieves steal 80 children’s life jackets from Nanaimo marine rescue organization

$20,000 worth of training and education equipment taken from RCM-SAR’s storage trailer
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 27 is hoping to recover an estimated $20,000 in equipment stolen from a trailer stored at the Nanaimo Fire Rescue training centre on Labieux Road. Some of the items were found nearby, but much more is still missing. (Photo submitted)

Nanaimo RCMP is looking for the culprits while Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 27 hopes that boating safety and education equipment stolen from a storage trailer can be recovered.

The equipment was taken from RCM-SAR’s boating safety trailer stored on the grounds of Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Vancouver Island Emergency Response Academy on Labieux Road.

Debby Thomson, RCM-SAR 27 search and rescue prevention and boating safety manager, said the theft was discovered Wednesday, Oct. 20, and likely occurred this week.

All the equipment taken is used for boating safety education in the community and at schools and included about 80 life jackets for children, a 55-inch LG TV, electronics for the unit’s Bobbie the Safety Boat remote-control vessel, part of the Rescue Bear mascot costume, tubs of colouring books, brochures, a public address system and other items, most of which were contained in large, high-quality duffel bags bearing RCM-SAR 27’s logo.

The rough estimate of the value of the items stolen is $20,000.

“When I originally started looking at it I was thinking, oh, well, it’s not too bad, and then I started pricing … if you count, say, 80 life jackets at $50 each – they’re the cheap ones – there’s $4,000 right there,” Thomson said.

The remote control and audio electronics for Bobbie the Safety Boat are dated and will be expensive if those have to be replaced.

“I’m going to have to do some improvising to get it replaced or go out and buy new. Well, buying a whole Bobbie new right now is $13,000-$14,000 U.S.,” she said. “I wouldn’t be doing that.”

The thieves took the body of the polar bear mascot, but left behind his feet and head.

“So, somebody has a polar bear suit that I think might appear somewhere at Halloween,” Thomson said.

Thomson said firefighters found some of the stolen items scattered nearby around Labieux Road and the Kinsmen ParticiPark.

Thomson speculated a number of people would likely have been involved over an extended period of time or would have needed a vehicle to be able to move the amount of equipment taken.

“The five duffel bags that we lost, they’re great big hockey-bag size and when they’re stuffed with things they’re very cumbersome, so you’re not carrying tons of those at one time,” she said.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said access was gained to the trailer through a chain link fence that had been cut and the lock on the trailer had been broken.

O’Brien said some batteries were also taken from a decommissioned vehicle belonging to Nanaimo Fire Rescue which was also stored nearby.

“It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when people target materials that are meant for our safety and our education,” O’Brien said.

Thomson said the equipment is insured, but she doesn’t want to file a claim for fear of driving up RCM-SAR 27’s insurance costs. Any donations to the non-profit organization from the public to help replace the stolen items would be welcomed, she said. Donations can be made by visiting the marine search and rescue unit’s website at

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