Accident in Howe Sound

A sad story…

VANCOUVER — For the eight experienced extreme athletes, it was a last rush of adrenaline to mark the end of their adventure racing season, as fall storms began to lash the West Coast.

Kayak to steep Anvil Island in the middle of Howe Sound. Run to the top of the island’s peak and down again. Kayak back to the mainland. Bike along 80 kilometres of back trails to Whistler. Run halfway up the mountain, then down at last to a local bar and grill for a celebratory family dinner.

But late Sunday morning, as the four double kayaks began their return journey from Anvil Island, strong winds came up, the waves rose, and tragedy struck. Two kayakers, then two more, were pitched into the frigid waters of Howe Sound.

Monday, friends and family mourned the deaths of two of those who began the day in such high spirits, plucked too late from the ocean to survive their severe hypothermia.

Friends identified the victims as 50-year-old Richard Juryn, a well-known endurance mountain bike rider and sports event organizer from North Vancouver, and Denis Fontaine.

The story continues on the website.

Would go good on Discussion.

check out…

Thanks for the link
Some good comments on that message board (the topic area it’s under is “Paddling Safety”).

Interesting interview…

Everyone should listen to the interview.
especially the last part about being the chicken.

first person information

Sad indeed, but …
A vhf radio might have averted the disaster.

How so?

Better decision making process
Loads of things could have averted the disaster beginning with:


Proper clothing for the day (dry suits would have been in order)


Paddle Leash

But the biggest one is making the right decisions from the start before even getting on the water.


Obviously calling for rescue assistance.

True - a radio could have helped
I posted this on another forum but I think it’s got some relevance to this discussion as well:

I tend to look at this situation as a sea kayaker and not from the point of a competitive athlete – with this in mind, I’m definitely biased. I’m biased because I tend to play it safe – if I’m going to ere, it’s going to be on the cautious side – I get no glory from pushing the limits to excess when I paddle – my main consideration is that I want to be able to do this again tomorrow. I know full well how mean the sea can be and always give it it’s due respect. I don’t however have any aversion to the extremes that these athletes go to – in fact, as someone who in a younger time was extremely fit and participated in many activites that pushed the boundaries, I can fully appreciate the mindset of this group of people. Unfortunately, that competitive mindset often overlooks obvious safety considerations, or at the least, tends to unconsciously dispell it – kind of a “it’ll never happen to me”, and “my skills and physical conditioning will get me through” attitude can be present. This was confirmed in the video interview with Bob Faulkner (one of the survivors) that is linked to in a previous post in this thread.

From a sea kayakers perspective, it was ludicrous to go out in such conditions without proper immersion gear. The best thing, and the most sensible thing to do in these conditions is to sit tight and proceed when conditions improve. I think a big part of the problem in this situation is that none of this group of athletes treat sea kayaking the way that dedicated sea kayakers do – I don’t mean this in any negative way towards this group – I’m sure that in competitive circles they are considered to be proficient paddlers. However, I’ve found that dedicated sea kayakers tend to assess risk differently – and they generally throw in the towel and sit it out if conditions are too much (I’ve done it myself on a couple of occasions). It was obvious that all those involved underestimated the conditions and as such did not prepare for the journey as a dedicated sea kayaker does – immersion protection, flares, VHF radio, self rescue skills, etc. (I may be wrong about the lack of safety equipment, but I heard no mention of any safety gear other than PFD’s). As a sea kayaker, I NEVER paddle without safety and rescue equipment and I’m always aware of weather conditions. This group of people willingly paddled into conditions that anyone with intermediate kayaking skills would know is risky – this makes me wonder about their ability to accurately assess situations. But the biggest factor is that they did so in a fashion that they could not be self-sufficient should something go wrong. And in these conditions, when something goes wrong, it usually goes wrong in a very big way, amplifying even the most benign oversights and shortcomings.

All of these people were also in a competitive state and as a result, most likely didn’t want to whine about conditions when others (their peers) seemed willing to confront the waters in front of them. I suspect that to a limited degree this had something to do with the incident too. But the biggest factor is that a poor decision to go forward was made. It happens. Unfortunately, as in this case, dire consequences can occur.

From a pragmatic point of view there were so many things that were done wrong from the get go, that it truly was a disaster waiting to happen.

Please don’t think that I’m callous in my opinions of this situation, I’m not – I feel deeply for the families and friends of these people and I’m certain that they will be missed dearly – it sounds as though these two fellows were very well liked and contributed a lot to their communities. There is however, benefit in objectively and honestly discussing this incident as it may prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Further discussion about this incident is taking place here:

With heartfelt respect,


It’s refreshing to hear a clear-eyed first person evaluation of what went wrong and why. There’s no evasion of responsibility or excuses being made in the recounting of the story. To learn from something bad, you have to look at what really happened, and he is doing that, which I have a lot of respect for so soon after the fact.

This makes me feel much better about the times I’ve pulled up to a launch, looked out at what seem to be borderline conditions, then gone right back home without unstrapping the boat.

the person with the radio wouldn’t be one of the people being rescued or on the capsized boats otherwise they’d ALL need radios.

Not saying it wouldn’t have been helpful but the issue is addressing the factors that made it life threatening starting with the decision to go, the lack of immersion gear and the sequence where one set of rescuers become victims.

still bothered by the guy opening up the center hatch to rescue himself and turning the rescuers into victims whereas the other folks towed the woman in.

Hypothermic thinking

– Last Updated: Oct-10-07 4:01 PM EST –

I've been far enough along to have lost my ability to hold any normal concerns - a long time ago before I understood hypothermia and got handed a huge amount of dumb luck. I suspect he was in a state similar to mine when I was lucky enough to crawl into my old soggy 10 ton solid wool sleeping bag. You don't know or care about anything between you and the object that you see which seems to offer refuge, all you see is the possibility that you won't be so darned cold. He was probably no more capable of considering the likely risk to his friends than solving a quadratic equation in his head.

If this were a training scenario in typical sea kayaking, the paddlers who were still upright would have had probably greater responsibility for solving the problem correctly. But as has been pointed out elsewhere, the usual "sea kayaker" considerations weren't in play. The people who were paddling didn't have any better prep for handling the situation than the swimmer.

that’s my sense
for a victim to open up a center hatch and climb in means the people in the kayak were letting it happen and bracing so they wouldn’t go over. It must have seemed like a good idea to the victim,“out of water, paddle back”, sure climbing on the aft deck would have been tippy/awkward but it would have retained the integrity of the rescue boat. Opening the hatch lost it.

you fergot
rescue skills.

Rule 1- do not go out in conditions where you can’t rescue yourself or others.

Had everyone rallied to stick together, raft up and rescue the tipped vessel…maybe things might have been different…even in lycra shorts and a paddle jac.

sorry it happened!


doesn’t it seem odd that a victim would be allowed to pop the center hatch and climb in?

I don’t have experience with big glass doubles in rough water but it seems to me that towing the paddler back to shore on the aft deck would have been a better option. Opening the hatch puts hundreds of pounds of loose water with hundreds of pounds of paddler high in the boat.

yer fergot - that they did . . .
if you listen to the video, they did raft up:

  • and then they separated from the nice stable raft that they had successfully achieved and left the racing yak,

  • and then they decided to make a long open crossing in dire conditions while one yak was unstable (vs tucking in behind the island or staying locked together),

  • and then after a while one kayak decided to kayak away from the one in trouble and then the one in trouble really became in trouble and there was no one to help.

  • and then the yakkers in the water decided to swim even tho their big stable double yak still had 2 compartments with air.

    and then the cascade of decisions had been made and time was up.