While the annual Langley Good Times Cruise-In will be a display of hundreds of classic cars, trucks and motorcycles — there will be one very big boat in the mix.
The boat, a Kingfisher, isn’t a classic. In fact, it’s brand new.
Its proud owners, volunteers of the Legacy Water Search and Recovery Society, are hoping car enthusiasts will drop by the boat to have a look and ask about its important purpose.
This Kingfisher watercraft is specifically designed to help in searches for drowning victims and can permanently house equipment, allowing society volunteers to train and be ready to go if a drowning does occurs.
“Before this, we were always having to borrow boats,” said Legacy director Jim Ward.
“This let us be physically on the water whenever we need to be and for training. Having the boat in place could grow our volunteer base, too, because it allows us to do hands-on training on the water instead of on the shore.”
Legacy is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing closure to families.
Drowning victims are often never located, and police are unable to resolve the case successfully because they don’t have the specialized equipment needed for finding bodies in deep water.
Three years of fundraising, helped out by some generous donations as well as recent gaming grants, paid off last month when they were able to purchase a Kingfisher boat.
Legacy Society was created after Langley teens Brendan Wilson and Austin Kingsborough drowned while canoeing together on Nicola Lake on April 20, 2013.
The RCMP dive team attempted to locate the boys’ bodies, but didn’t have the specialized sonar equipment they needed. After a week spent searching without success, the families contacted an underwater search specialist from Idaho, who uses side scan sonar equipment. The boys’ bodies were found in less than 30 minutes.
But the Idaho couple are kept busy helping people all over North America. So family and friends in Langley decided to acquire the equipment and training to assist families in finding their loved ones.
Legacy can assist the RCMP both with searches and recovery, but also by providing emotional support to the families.
“We are actively training volunteers in side scan sonar and ROV operations,” said Legacy director Scott Lebus.
Legacy Society is a chosen charity of the Langley Good Times Cruise-In and will once again have a booth and the boat at the Sept. 10 event for anyone wanting to learn more about water safety and what the non-profit group is doing.
They are hoping the boat will attract some interest in potential new volunteers. Luckily, the search crews services have not been needed this summer but it is good to have a core of volunteers ready and willing to help.
The most recent search that Legacy volunteers participated in was on Pitt Lake, where just off shore the water drops to a depth of 350 feet.
The group has an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) that can make the recovery and they can deploy a side scanner that is able to descend 100 feet to scan the bottom.
“The sonar equipment we are using is on loan from Imagenex Technologies Inc. in Port Coquitlam,” said LeBus. “We did have our first recovery on Dec. 16, 2014 when we located Keenan Nicodeemus near Saturna Island.”
The 21-year-old drowned after a boating accident near Mayne Island.
“We have been requested to investigate five historic drowning files on Alouette Lake and Pitt Lake by the RCMP,” he said.
“We continue to work towards building our society and upgrading our equipment, while still trying to respond to requests from the police and general public.”
When the Society formed three years ago, its goals were to educate the public about water safety and to support families in every way possible when they have experienced the drowning of a loved one.
Their endeavors came with a $350,000 price tag.
Through golf tournaments, fundraising nights, dances and gaming grants, as well as Cruise-In’s contribution, the group has nearly reached its goal.
“This started from losing the boys, but now it’s truly a legacy, for everybody, to help everyone,” said Ward.
They continue to fundraise toward the costs of a tow vehicle and command centre. They also want to be well set up financially, so that when they go to help a family somewhere out of town, they can pay for accommodations.
“We have been so fortunate, with so many people coming on board to support us. G.A. Checkpoint has been amazing, donating a generator for the boat and giving us a great deal. Imaganix has graciously given us the sonar and software. Seeing the need, they donated a winch to us as well, so that when we can get bigger sonar equipment. The winch can hold 120 pounds.”
The volunteer core that makes up Legacy is also amazing, said Ward.
“Everyone is in it for the right reasons,” Ward said.
Training on the sonar equipment is challenging and you have to learn to have a trained eye, said Ward.
“When we were at Pitt Lake, 350 feet down, it looks just like the moon. You have to train your eyes to see the objects,’ said Ward.
This year, Legacy hasn’t yet been called on to help. And that’s just how they like it, said Ward.
“We would rather educate than do a recovery operation,” he said. Legacy has partnered with B.C. Lifesaving Society. Both groups spend a lot of time educating about water and boating safety.
“Maybe with the amount of publicity, the message is getting through,” he said.
Tickets to the Halloween dance fundraiser on Oct. 28 at Port Kells Community Hall are already on sale and can be bought through the website.
To learn more or if you are looking to volunteer, go to: legacywatersearch.com.