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Second marine rescue boat introduced at Belle River Marina

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A volunteer search and rescue crew and the Municipality of Lakeshore are celebrating the launch of Guardian Marine Rescue’s second boat.

The vessel is being docked at the Belle River Marina where the team works in tandem with the Coast Guard to assist and keep the waters of Lakeshore, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River safe for all boaters.

“When something comes in whether it's somebody that's drowned, whether it's an overdue vessel, a sunken vessel, anything that goes on in the water, we train for it all and that's why we're here,” said Guardian Marine Rescue Treasurer Tyler Burniston.

A ribbon cutting event took place aboard the boat Thursday to acknowledge both the vessel’s beginning of service and the expansion of the Guardian Marine Rescue’s operating area beyond its Colchester, Ont. base.

Three drownings have occurred in the region in the week leading up to the event.

“We had our first call went out and did a search for the missing individual from Michigan there. Unfortunately, it was an unsuccessful search. But it just goes to show that this unit is going to be needed here and it's going to serve a purpose that is definitely needed in the community,” Burniston said.

He explained last year was the busiest year to date for the non-profit, donation driven group that was established in 2011.

From Wheatley to Walpole Island, Burniston said they have a geographically massive area in which the group has to cover. For example, in Colchester there were 12 calls for service.

Guardian Marine Rescue and the Municipality of Lakeshore are celebrating the launch of a second boat in Belle River, Ont., on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“The next search and rescue vessel on Lake Erie is significantly further up, and then even here, the next one that we have is in Mitchell's Bay and that's the IRB station and it's only open for certain months of the year,” he explained. “So outside of the main parts of the year which I believe is May 2-4 to Labour Day, they're not there. So then we become the only search and rescue asset for the entire lake.”

“So definitely there is a large gap in capabilities and we're happy to be here to fill up those gaps,” he added.

Burniston noted Guardian Marine Rescue is committed to saving lives and promoting safe boating activities in the community while volunteers undergo rigorous training to ensure they are prepared for a variety of situations, and collaborate closely with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and other local agencies to deliver effective and coordinated search and rescue operations.

If a person has no prior training or has never set foot on a boat before, Burniston said that’s no problem.

“We will train you from ‘I've never been on a boat' to you're very comfortable running the boat. There's two Coast Guard Auxiliary courses that we will run you through your phase one and phase two training, and that gets you up to the point that you're pretty much comfortable doing most of the search and rescue activities that we conduct,” he explained.

Guardian Marine Rescue and the Municipality of Lakeshore are celebrating the launch of a second boat in Belle River, Ont., on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

“Belle River is surrounded by water. I've lived here my whole life. So you know, unfortunately, there's always some tragedy each season,” added Essex Windsor EMS District Chief Michelle Murphy. “I think people never think it's going to happen to them. Right? You ever think of the worst case scenario.”

Murphy continued, “So being an EMS, it's great to have these guys right there. They're doing the out on the water part. We don't go out on the water historically. So we would be here to support them when they returned and however the way that looks hopefully, on a recovery of a live person.”

Lakeshore Mayor Tracey Bailey said the rescue boat launch is an important moment and milestone for the Municipality of Lakeshore.

“Certainly it’s everyone's responsibility to ensure safety, to remember to wear life vests, to ensure that your family and friends are safe,” Bailey said.

Bailey explained the timing is critical in light of the recent tragic events along with her own personal loss 10 years ago.

“I have first hand experience in losing someone to drowning and we've been the family that has stood on the dock wondering and waiting and the true enormous appreciation for people like the Guardian Marine that comes out and assists you in the time of crisis in your in your life, it is just so important to families,” she said.

She continued, “I think it’s incredibly important. It's personal to me. So I am incredibly grateful that this moment is happening here today and certainly a ribbon cutting that launches something amazing that will continue long into the future.”

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