A former Gibsons resident, 21-year-old Hayden Kyle, is one of three people confirmed missing and presumed dead after a tragic canoe accident May 10 on Slocan Lake, just north of Nelson.
The accident, which drew national attention, happened sometime around 5:30 p.m. as Kyle and friends Skye Donnet, 18, Jule Wiltshire-Padfield, 15, and Lily Harmer-Taylor, 19, were paddling between the village of Rosebery and New Denver along Slocan Lake. None of them was wearing a life jacket at the time.
The distance between the two small communities is close to six kilometres and the friends arrived safely in New Denver; however, on their way back to Rosebery, something went wrong.
A passerby walking his dog saw some members of the group in distress at around 5:30 p.m. that day.
He reported seeing two males holding on to either end of a partially submerged canoe about 150 metres off shore. Unable to reach the group, he ran to call for help.
When rescuers arrived on scene, only Harmer-Taylor could be located near the canoe, and she was unresponsive.
“Ms. Harmer-Taylor was transported to New Denver Hospital, but despite aggressive resuscitative events both on scene and at the hospital, she could not be revived,” stated Larry Marzinzik of the BC Coroners Service in a press release.
Extensive searches of the shoreline on foot and by helicopter were quickly organized, but no sign of the other three friends could be found.
Rescuers feared the worst as the lake is deep and glacier fed and hovers around the one degree Celsius mark at this time of year.
After multiple searches of the shoreline and water, the rescue effort was reclassified as a recovery mission on May 12.
Because of the depth of the lake in some areas, dive teams brought in special underwater sonar equipment to aid their search on May 14, to no avail.
“The RCMP is also exploring other viable options in its efforts to bring this event to a conclusion,” Central Kootenay Regional RCMP Sgt. Darryl Little said in a press release. “Emergency Management BC has been contacted and agreed to provide additional equipment that can search at a deeper depth, as the lake is well over 400 feet deep where the canoe overturned.”
Little noted the RCMP have no plans to stop searching for the three missing males at this time but that they will “reevaluate every day” to “determine what the likelihood of success is before we make any decision.”
Dan Nicholson, publisher of New Denver’s Valley Voice newspaper and owner of the canoe Kyle and his friends borrowed, said the days since the accident have been “the most horrible of my life.”
Nicholson said Kyle had been living with him as the 21-year-old’s job in construction in the area had come to an end and he needed a place to stay while he found more work. Kyle was friends with Nicholson’s kids, so he opened his spare bedroom to the young man.
“And he was taking steps to get back on his feet. He had got a job with a local electrician and things seemed to be looking good for him at the time,” Nicholson recalled.
Nicholson had the canoe stored at his home in Rosebery, and Kyle and his friends decided to borrow it without asking on May 10. “They didn’t ask me if they could take the canoe. If they had I would have said ‘sure, of course, by all means, it’s sitting there. Please grab the life jackets, they’re sitting in the mudroom.’ But they didn’t and it’s a horrible tragedy,” Nicholson said.
Upon hearing about the accident, Gibsons’ Stephanie Nichols wrote on her Facebook page, “Hayden, you were such a thoughtful, caring person, so full of life and love, and you will be so missed by so many. Life is unbelievably unfair sometimes. Forever in my thoughts and heart. Rest in peace, we all know you’re smiling down on us with that beautiful grin of yours. Infinite love to your family.”
Gibsons’ Larissa Lind also noted on Facebook, “This happens all too often. Another beautiful soul taken from us far too early. You were always so polite and so unbelievably kind. You had that smile that could light up a room and you will be missed by so many, Hayden. My heart and prayers go out to the Kyle family. Rest easy, little buddy.”
Kyle was a student at the Sunshine Coast Alternative School, and superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking said counseling is being made available for those students and staff who might need it.
“We’re very sensitive to that issue, and our district principal of student support as well as the principal of the Sunshine Coast Alternative School are monitoring students and staff to make sure that if there are any issues they are being managed and [people are being] supported,” Bocking said.
© Coast Reporter