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Fatal water rescue ‘flawed’

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A coroner’s inquest into the death of search-and-rescue worker Sheliah Sweatman, who was killed when she was pulled underwater by a cable during a submerged vehicle recovery last year, heard the team shouldn’t have been on the swift waters in the first place.

The first day of the inquest Monday heard testimony from Nigel Corduff, leader of a team of WorkSafeBC investigators, telling the jury the Creston, B.C., rescue operation was “flawed” from its planning and hazard assessment.

The team used a steel cable from a tow truck — an unconventional method for swift water rescuers who usually use rope that can be cut — in attempt to pull the vehicle out.

That cable slipped and ended up wrapping around Sweatman’s leg, dragging her under.

Coroner’s service spokeswoman Barbara McLintock said the vehicle had been in the water for at least 10 days when the team arrived. There was little, if any, chance of survivors.

Furthermore, the rapids were scheduled to subside, being the end of spring, several days after the 29-year-old was pulled under on June 29, 2011.

The inquest, scheduled until Nov. 23, is held to find recommendations to prevent similar future deaths.


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