A woman drowned near Campbell River today after falling into the waters at Elk Falls, according to the RCMP.
The woman, a Dutch tourist in her 60s, appears to have slipped into the river after trying to recover an apple, said Cpl. Ron Vlooswyk, a police spokesperson.
At 2:20 p.m., police received a report about the wife of a tourist being sucked into the water near Elk Falls.
The report, made by a third party, was unclear because “the husband could speak only broken English,” according to an RCMP media release.
“We could understand that somebody was under the water at Elk Falls,” said Vlooswyk. “Police immediately scrambled, got down and began the search of the area to get more details.”
They found the man near the falls.
“He said that his wife had slipped and fell into the water,” Vlooswyk said. “She yelled for help and then that was the last he saw of her.”
Vlooswyk said that police immediately notified BC Hydro, which shut down water flows at the John Hart Dam, which is located just upstream, to help search efforts.
An RCMP helicopter and a drone both scanned the water.
First responders at the scene included police, fire, search and rescue, and ambulance services. BC Hydro staff were also present.
Hikers were sent away from Elk Falls Park by first responders on Thursday afternoon as the search took place. At around 4 p.m., police cordoned off the trail leading to the falls from Brewster Lake Road.
A helicopter could be heard making repeated passes in the canyon, and a group of tourists returning from a hike said there were at least 25 rescuers at the scene.
The woman’s body was found in the area above the falls. She was recovered from the water at 5 p.m., Vlooswyk said. She appears to have become stuck in the fast-moving waters above the falls, he said.
A Dutch-speaking police officer was brought in to support the husband, according to the RCMP. The police are also liaising with the Dutch consulate to support the family. Meanwhile, the BC Coroner is taking over the investigation.
Vlooswyk extended his sympathies on behalf of the local police. He added that it’s not the first time this kind of tragedy has occurred at Elk Falls.
“I’ve personally been out there on similar incidents where somebody has slipped on the water, but they have actually gone over the falls,” he said. He said it appears that she was reaching for an apple when the tragedy took place.
“I believe it was an apple that was in the water and she tried to grab for it,” he said. “That’s what caused her to slip and fall.”
The incident took place just hours after BC Hydro issued a public safety notice telling people to stay away from Elk Falls due to higher water flows that were due to begin tonight.
BC Hydro said in a statement released this morning that it planned to increase water flows threefold following a malfunction at the old John Hart Dam, and advised the public to stay away from Elk Falls through Aug. 10.
The statement added that safety signage would be installed today.