Campbell River Search and Rescue is reminding the public of the dangers surrounding Elk Falls, and issuing a warning that there is zero chance of survival if someone were to slip and go over the falls.
Grant Cromer, manager of Campbell River Search and Rescue, said it was recently brought to his attention that people have been getting too close to the falls.
“There have been increasing concerns registered lately by the public, including reference in a YouTube video, of the public potentially putting their lives at risk,” Cromer said. “An example was a young adult and young child on the edge of a cliff beside the falls.”
Cromer said getting that close to the edge of a 25-metre cliff is not safe, sends the wrong message to others, and places people in high danger.
“There is no surviving that fall as the waterfall crashes onto a house-sized rock, eventually hitting the pool,” Cromer said. “All it takes is one slip and it may be over in seconds. Anyone being recovered from the canyon puts the Campbell River Search and Rescue rescuers at a high risk to access the site. We have been in this situation in the past and there is a high level of risk, even with all the safety equipment and training that our members have. To rappel down the rock face, then swim in very turbulent water, past rocks and water hazards, to access these people and then getting them out, is a very significant challenge.”
The slippery and uneven rock surfaces above Elk Falls have led to fatal accidents in the past.
Dutch tourist Cornelius Bot, 42, fell to his death on July 18, 2011. Bot, who was from the Netherlands, was taking photos when he slipped, fell into the river and was swept over the falls. And on June 25, 2006, Tim Arthur, 35, from Nanaimo was getting a glass of water from the river when he also lost his footing, fell into the fast-moving water and died after going over the falls.
Following Bot’s death, BC Parks put up signs identifying the risk of getting too close to the falls. The signs bear international symbols to indicate hazards for falling, for fast moving currents, and for a waterfall, so that international tourists can easily understand.
But that hasn’t seemed to dissuade everyone from getting too close to the edge to get a good look and that’s unfortunate, said Cromer.
“Campbell River Search and Rescue encourage people to enjoy the features of the park from safe distances and obey the extensive cautionary safety signage BC Parks has in place,” Cromer said. “Please keep an eye on children and pets – yes, a dog has even slipped and gone over the falls – and do not approach moving water or cliff edges. There is zero margin for error.”
Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said one of Hydro’s motives behind supporting the new suspension bridge over Elk Falls was to help people get closer to the falls, but in a safe manner.
“One of the reasons why BC Hydro was so supportive of the Rotary Club’s suspension bridge was to get people away from trying to get a close look at the falls from the rocks – you can now get an incredible view from the safety of the bridge,” Watson said. “These rocks can be wet, and the water fast-flowing.”