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Island whale watch boat captain recognized for rescuing paddlers who flipped canoe

Rodrigo Menezes receives Lifesaving Society’s Silver Medal for Merit for rescue operation
Whale watching boat captain Rodrigo Menezes was presented with the Royal Lifesaving Society’s Silver Medal of Merit award for rescuing two men after their canoe capsized in Dodd Narrows. Menezes was recognized in his absence when he could not attend the event Saturday, April 1. (Photo submitted)

The captain of a Nanaimo whale watching boat is among 17 people who received rescue awards at the Royal Lifesaving Society’s Honour and Rescue Award Ceremony on the weekend.

The awards ceremony, held each year to celebrate the bravery of aquatic rescuers in B.C. and Yukon, was hosted in Vancouver on Saturday, April 1.

Rodrigo Menezes, captain and marine operator for Vancouver Island Whale Watch, was recognized for saving two men from Dodd Narrows after their canoe flipped in the narrows’ heavy currents.

According to a Lifesaving Society press release, Menezes was about 15 minutes into a mid-day whale watching trip last April, and slowed his craft to pass through the narrows safely.

A father and his son were paddling a canoe toward Mudge Island and were about 50 metres from the island when the canoe capsized. Menezes tried to throw them a rescue line, but the attempt failed and he wasn’t able to get his boat closer to the men because of the current and shallow water without risking his boat and the safety of his passengers.

Once the men drifted to more open water, Menezes cut his engines and drifted the boat toward the men until he was close enough to throw them the boat’s life ring and managed to pull both men aboard. Menezes also managed to recover the men’s belongings and their canoe, the release noted.

The men were suffering from mild hypothermia but were otherwise uninjured. Passengers offered the men blankets and hot tea.

Menezes took the men back to a boat ramp where their vehicle was parked and then he and his passengers continued on their whale-watching trip.

“Things can go wrong really quickly on this water. Luckily they were wearing lifejackets; that saved their lives,” Menezes said in the press release.

He was awarded the Lifesaving Society’s silver medal for merit.

The Lifesaving Society is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to reduce water-related death and injury and has been educating the public and training lifesavers and lifeguards in B.C. for more than 100 years.

READ ALSO: Ladysmith crew honoured for 2021 rescue of two men from a sinking fishing boat

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