Boat capsizes during army exercises near Syringa Park; environmental impact minimal

A bridging boat foundered on Tuesday during exercises near Syringa Provincial Park.

Groups of combat engineers composed of Canadian and US soldiers paddle assault boats during the watermanship training exercise on the Columbia River between Castlegar and Trail

Groups of combat engineers composed of Canadian and US soldiers paddle assault boats during the watermanship training exercise on the Columbia River between Castlegar and Trail

A bridging boat foundered on Tuesday during exercises near Syringa Provincial Park. An army official said the boat took on water, forcing the two soldiers, who were uninjured, on board to flee.

“At approximately noon yesterday, one of three bridging boats that was involved in moving a pontoon bridge on Lower Arrow Lakes started taking on water which settled by the stern,” said Major Dan Thomas of the Canadian Forces on Tuesday. “The two soldiers on board stayed on board as long as they could then had to bail out and were picked up very quickly by a safety boat.”

Major Thomas said another bridging boat tied onto the sinking boat and towed it to shore at Syringa Provincial Park.

“A containment boom was immediately deployed because we carry spill response equipment with us wherever we go,” he said. “Additional spill response equipment was brought up from Trail. At this point there’s been very limited loss of any fluid.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the boat was still in the water awaiting a crane to pull it out.

“We have called in professional environmental emergency response people with a crane,” said Major Thomas. “We intent to pull it out of the lake today (Tuesday) as carefully as possible.”

Major Thomas said the bridging boat uses vegetable oil for hydraulic fuel and is biodegradable as is the antifreeze.

“They are propelled by low sulphur diesel but immediately we were paying attention to any kind of leakage,” he said. “There was some minor spots yesterday that quickly dispersed and there’s been to further leakage since then. There was no injury to troops. We’re taking every possible step to protect the environment by containing the scene and calling in the experts. We didn’t rush to get the boat out of the water. We’re going to do it carefully.”

The boats are part of Kootenay Castor, a joint training exercise between the Canadian Army and the Washington Army National Guard.