Canadian officials say no major issues were reported during Sunday’s float down, where approximately 200 people set sail at the water treatment plant near the Blue Water Bridge, heading south down the St. Clair River.
“We appreciate everyone being cooperative and reasonable,” said Sarnia Police Const. John Sottosanti. “We’re just happy that everyone got out safely.”
The unsanctioned event was organized to coincide with the 40th annual Port Huron Float Down, a controversial event, which this year, drew some 5,000 participants on the U.S. side.
“Together, we assisted 168 people on the water and saved three lives,” said Carol Launderville, spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard, pointing to 25 agencies from both sides of the border that worked together to respond to the event. “New this year, we implemented the Incident Command System with excellent results. A Canadian Coast Guard helicopter provided situational awareness, and that was of great value.”
Launderville noted that one young woman was rescued by the OPP Marine Unit — while treading water with one hand and holding her purse above her head with the other — and a 30-year-old American woman and two teenagers were pulled from the river by Canadian Coast Guard officials after their dinghy deflated.
“Responders saw more lifejackets and paddles than in years past,” she added. “But still, many participants were not wearing a lifejacket or personal floatation device.
“So, not just for a float down, but for any waterway activity, our message is: ‘help us help you.’ Wear a lifejacket, not only for yourself, wear it for your family; wear it for your responders.'”