More than 1,000 people, including 500-plus emergency responders from on and off-Coast paid their respects to Beatrice Sorensen and Angie Nemeth in a Celebration of Life at Chatelech Secondary School in Sechelt Sunday afternoon.
The two members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) Unit 12 Halfmoon Bay, were killed in a training accident in Skookumchuck Narrows on June 3.
The celebration including lots of love, tears and reflection of the two wonderful community-minded women who had a passion for life, family and friends — and most importantly — a passion for volunteering.
“I feel honoured to be here with you today to honour two very significant women who have been a part of this community for so many years,” said Chaplain Bruce Rushton. “We all come here with different perspectives and feelings in a time like this, but today we come together seeking to find solace as a community, as friends as family. We need to let go of the anger and embrace the love of family and friends as we move along in this journey. The greatest healing for all of us is forgiveness, friendship, love and faith.
“You will never get over this loss. You will get through it through your loved ones and friends. Remember Angie and Beatrice and the wonderful times that you shared with them. Remember what they brought to this community and to your lives.”
Emergency responders from across the province, Canada — even the U.S. — attended including coast guard members, RCMP officers, search and rescue volunteers, firefighters, paramedics, and police detachments.
“Their passion and their love of the ocean was evident,” said Jody Thomas, deputy commissioner with the Canadian Coast Guard, who attended from Ottawa. “When such a tragedy like this occurs, everyone in the maritime community is greatly affected. There is enormous gratitude for what these women sacrificed for all of us. They did not die in vain. We will remember them and honour them.”
John Wiseman, RCM-SAR Unit 12 station leader shared memories and personal reflections of both women and how much they meant to the unit.
He also thanked the people of the Sunshine Coast for their outpouring of support for not only the RCM-SAR volunteers, but also the family and friends of both women.
“To see all of you here, you cannot imagine how proud Beatrice and Angie would be. It’s such a wonderful tribute and we thank you so much,” said Wiseman. “They both had a passion for being on the water and for volunteering with RCM-SAR. For them it was an honour and a privilege to be a member of our team as it was our privilege having them as a part of our team. We are inspired by our memories of Beatrice and Angie. Your sacrifice has made us stronger as individuals and as a station. We are grateful to have known you and we stand in awe of your accomplishments. You will always be with us.”
Fighting back tears, family members of both women shared their thoughts and memories as well as a wonderful slide show presentation.
Randy Strandt, RCM-SAR president said the attendance of all the emergency responders and members of the community is a great tribute to Angie and Beatrice and is of great comfort to all who knew them.
“You might say they were ordinary women, just living their lives, but I would suggest to you they were not ordinary at all. You see ordinary people do not give up their time to assist complete strangers,” said Strandt. “Ordinary people do not give up evenings and weekends to train and be ready to help others. Ordinary people never put themselves in harms way so that others can live. What they did may seem like an ordinary thing, but it is not.
“People like Angie and Beatrice are the people — the people who ensure that we are safe. They are our heroes.”
A RCM-SAR vessel and the Vancouver Police Department marine vessel escorted the 11:30 a.m. B.C. Ferries sailing to the Sunshine Coast, which carried many of the emergency volunteers.
One such volunteer was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard based in Washington State.
“They are our brethren. We are neighbours with a common border and a common mission,” said Cmdr. Kent Chappelka. “When people are lost such as these two volunteers, it makes us realize that no matter how much you train there is always an inherent risk. It also reminds us how heroic people are who do this.”
Prior the service, a Cormorant flyover was done over the high school as the emergency responders formed in procession to go inside the school.
“We will never forget Beatrice and Angie,” said Strandt. “Their names and memories will live on. We will be reminded of two brave women who were killed and we will remember that although the water is a dangerous place, Angie and Beatrice will want us to move on. We will be better, and we will be stronger.”
Following the memorial, Strandt said he was overwhelmed by the support.
“There is a brotherhood and sisterhood that you see among rescue crews that is unparalleled,” he said. “When something does go wrong they pull together like no other agencies pull together.”
— With files from Ben Ingram