Rescue off Victoria Park turns into tongue-lashing

Nigel Armstrong
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Four young canoeists struggle ashore off Victoria Park Monday after strollers on the boardwalk thought they were in need of rescue. Police, ambulance and the fire department's rescue boat responded but the group got to land on its own. The two boys in the group did not have PFDs and police had choice words for the whole escapade.

Police, ambulance, rescue boat rush to young canoeists, some not wearing life jackets.

A rescue turned instead into a tongue-lashing off Victoria Park Monday.

Four young canoeists got an earful from police as they wearily made their way ashore near the tennis courts.

Two young men and two young women caused a stir for evening strollers on the boardwalk about 6:15 p.m. when 911 calls started coming in about tipped boats and people in the water.

Cst. Steve Gallant of Charlottetown Police Services was waiting on the sea wall as two boys gingerly walked to shore in bare feet across mussel beds, and two girls in life jackets paddled one canoe, pulling the other on a rope behind them.

It was low tide with a biting north wind blowing off shore.

The four stood sheepishly in front of a growing collection of emergency personnel and onlookers.

Behind them the roar of outboards and a towering wake subsided as the fire department's fast rescue boat sped to the scene, but was not needed.

"What were you doing?" snapped Gallant as the group assembled around him.

The faint answer was not audible to onlookers watching from the boardwalk.

"Where are your life jackets?" he said to the boys.

"We lost them," came the not-too-convincing reply from young expedition leader who later told The Guardian he was from Cornwall.

"Don't lie to me," snapped Gallant, more than once.

The boy later told The Guardian that the group was testing out a new-to-them plastic canoe-like paddle boat.

The girls were in an older, traditional fibreglass canoe, the boys in the new small plastic boat.

"I don't like it," said the boy. "It kept filling up with water."

The boys decided to get out of the new canoe, get under it, lift it up to drain the water out, then flip it back upright. No problem in the shallow water of low tide, they thought.

It became a bigger problem when the soft bottom and depth took them by surprise, finding themselves able to touch bottom but too deep to lift the canoe up over their heads.

Tired from the effort, they started walking to shore while the girls towed the sloshing canoe.

The young man insists it wasn't too cold.

"After the initial shock, it wasn't too bad," he said.

Gallant had a different perspective.

"You have the police here, you have the ambulance, the deputy fire chief is standing there, the rescue boat is there," said Gallant. "This is costing at least $2,000."

There wasn't really room for an answer, as police started getting names and particulars from the young people, including the name and phone numbers of their mothers.

Meanwhile the crew from Island EMS took them over to the truck, gave them sheets to dry off and warm up, and check them out before sending them back to load up the canoes and drive away.

Organizations: Charlottetown Police Services, The Guardian

Geographic location: Victoria Park

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Recent comments

  • Islander
    June 18, 2014 - 20:59

    The mother of one of the teens said herself on her... "I realize the kids were in the wrong for being out on such a windy day but the girls did have life jackets on, not the boys but they should have. The canoes were turned over and they spent 2 hours trying to get ashore and terrifed to death, with one of the boys almost drowning." Correct me if I am wrong...but you said yourself they were in trouble and done wrong...enough said.

  • Crow Lady
    June 18, 2014 - 12:10

    Kids get off to easy now a day....cheers for Officer Gallant! Way to go! Yes, they are playing but it's all fun and games till someone gets hurt and then we as a society point the finger at our police! Cheers once again to the police!

  • grant johnson
    June 18, 2014 - 06:29

    And it is front page news like this that reinforces my decision to NOT get the Guardian. What a joke! Not news, not important and a sad commentary on our helicopter world. This adventure could/should have been a good story for the kids to re tell. How many "remember that time's" do you have from the '70's amd 80's?... Instead it will just be a sour taste.

  • Sunny
    June 17, 2014 - 21:35

    After all, the kids didn't call the EMS. Some weak kneed but-insky did. As mentioned the "kids" were fine! Why blame them?

  • Harassment Unacceptable
    June 17, 2014 - 17:20

    If these were adults, there would not have been a tongue lashing I'm sure. There are better ways to educate on water safety then the actions detailed in this story. Shame on Gallant...perhaps an educational session is required on how best to handle difficult situations.

    • don
      June 17, 2014 - 19:03

      what a line of crap from most of you. you whine and cry because the police was upset. what if the kids were in trouble and no one called 911 then you would be crying and screaming that the police did not do there job. but think on this if you babies needed the police or ems or fire only to find out they were tied up with a group of babies. would u not be ticked? if it was a life that needed saving? lets hope they do get a bill. next time u need an ambulance and tell them you will NOT pay the bill as you pay tax's. see what happens.

  • Stacey
    June 17, 2014 - 15:00

    Maybe the police could start screaming at the child molesters out there for a change.

    • ?
      June 18, 2014 - 07:47

      What does this have anything to do with child molesters? Come on. I would have given them an earful as well. Good job Steve.

  • Keri M
    June 17, 2014 - 12:15

    The kids themselves didn't call 911 and it didn't sound like they were yelling for help or anything. Really they shouldn't have been yelled at for such a silly thing. They didn't do anything except not wear life jackets. Don't blame them.

  • Dave
    June 17, 2014 - 12:12

    SIGH....................not hard to see how kids have become so entitled today reading the comments here.

    • other randy
      June 17, 2014 - 17:17

      agree with you

    • chris
      June 17, 2014 - 18:32

      true Dave..not only did they put themselves in danger but the emergency personell as well, anything could of happened..fine the parents..i say!

  • Randy
    June 17, 2014 - 11:30

    If they were just testing or trying out this new portable boat just off shore where people could swim if they wanted to, with no intent of venturing out farther, then the bystanders were indeed all nuts.

  • Brian Chandler
    June 17, 2014 - 11:14

    Con. Gallant owes these young people an apology for his comments. They did what they were suppose to do, call 911. His comments were uncalled for, taxes payers, "US', pay for him to be there doing his job.

  • Cathy
    June 17, 2014 - 10:21

    Gallant's accusation that the teens cost the province $ 2000 is misleading. It suggests that the police, fire and EMS personnel were not already being paid. The rescue, required or not, was merely using the services we are paying for.

  • PEI Teen
    June 17, 2014 - 10:05

    I'm sorry but the cop sounds kind of ignorant, "you know how much this is costing us $2,00?" I'm sorry but that's hypocritical, we pay for this from OUR taxes so I don't know why he was so agitated and I'm glad we have these open blogs so they know just because they have a gun and a badge that there not untouchable so maybe they can take all that money we pay into them and take a course and good manners and respect?

  • Just Listen To You People
    June 17, 2014 - 09:38

    What message are you sending out to young people . If you see someone you think are in trouble . Ignore them . Would you be saying the same if it was one of your kid's without life belt & had drowned . I think not . If someone had called 911 when they saw the 4 kids from eastern Kings going into that building in Charlottetown , they may be still alive today . Kid's today are careless & don't think anything can happen to them , that is why we have death's that people then rave on about what should have been done . These people that called 911 did right & the two boy's should have been charged for not having life belts . That's the bottom line . Better safe than sorry I always say .

  • mboyan
    June 17, 2014 - 08:40

    In years from now, these young lads and lasses will be forgotten by us, and will be able to laugh at this situation as they sit around reminiscing about the old days. Cst Steve Gallant, however, will now always be remembered as the cop that got his jollies off in public by bullying a bunch of young kids. Gallant should do the honorable thing, and publically apologize, not just to these teens, but to everyone that calls this great city their home.

    • Mother of one those teens
      June 17, 2014 - 09:30

      Thank you for this comment. I realize the kids were in the wrong for being out on such a windy day but the girls did have life jackets on, not the boys but they should have. The canoes were turned over and they spent 2 hours trying to get ashore and terrifed to death, with one of the boys almost drowning. As you put it my daughter was in shock, not only because of her experience but how Mr. Gallant treated them. Sure they should have been spoken to but not at that moment. My daughter stated he never even asked any one of us if were ok. I wonder if that was his child would the response been the same. And yes I do want an apology to my daughter and the rest of her friends. I'm just glad to have her alive and home safe.

    • To Mother
      June 17, 2014 - 11:59

      It's never enough , want an apology , why . A kick on the butt & charges laid would be more in line . Your kid's were endangering their lives & requiring rescue people to waste their time when another real emergency could be happing & they would be at this location giving carless kid's a balling out . Did you know where they were & not wearing life jackets . You should have stopped them & be thankful that another person spoke to them on your behalf .

  • Alan
    June 17, 2014 - 08:20

    They walked to shore under their own steam. This was not a rescue, it was interference. Instead of a tongue-lashing, how about a 'good for you for putting your iPads down to enjoy the outdoors, sorry we over-reacted'?

    • lou lou annie
      June 17, 2014 - 08:39

      Exactly....geeze people seem to forget what it is to see kids get a life..........I commend the kids for getting out and enjoying life and not sitting in their car on their phone texting, we have gotten off pun intended....

  • Skyiz Fawling
    June 17, 2014 - 07:04

    Moral of the story. If you see anyone whatsoever involved in a situation where a problem might occur, do not ... I repeat ... do not ask them if everything is alright. Immediately assume there is an emergency, dial 911 and make a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Billy P
    June 17, 2014 - 06:12

    This is why we have the society we have today...listen to you folks hammering on the cop for for putting the fear of god in them! He should have pulled their pants down in front of the crowd and spanked their ass! Any wondering the kids are the way they are today your a sad bunch! Good on ya officer you did the right thing!

    • Robin
      June 17, 2014 - 14:11

      That would be sexual interference. Maybe you need to rethink the way you treat other people or is it just children that you believe should be treated with disrespect?

  • justin
    June 17, 2014 - 00:24

    A tongue lashing may have been in fact needed however it should not have been done in front of people. The proper course for the police was to make sure the kids were safe and looked after and then taken into custody and given a stern lecture and maybe held until their parents arrived. The tongue lashing by Cst. Gallant may have been the right course just it should not have been done in front of onlookers and rescuers. I doubt if Cst Gallant would have done the same thing had it been group of adults and maybe in this case it is Cst. Gallant who now needs to be on the receiving end of a stern lecture by his superiors and how to deal with situations like this in the future.

  • Citizen
    June 16, 2014 - 23:44

    The people watching them called 911. Not them. Weird how that young man who had his face and hands burned a few months ago from a fire that took his three freinds didnt get the same response in an emergency that would have probably cost double what happened there.

  • Janelle Johnston
    June 16, 2014 - 23:13

    I honestly don't see the point of publishing this story. It is pure embarrassment for the 4 young people who DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG.

    • Kirby
      June 17, 2014 - 03:55

      The reason to embarrass them is to make them aware how dangerous it is to be out on the water without the proper gear.

  • Ignorance is ugly
    June 16, 2014 - 22:25

    To those of you who have much to say without knowing the story, ignorance is is never a good look. I was near by the scene and saw exactly what took place. Yes, of course, the bystanders called for help because from a distance it was hard to tell what was happening. The young people involved were not waving around, yelling for help or making a big scene. They are being looked at as if they made a prank call to 911. They certainly did not. Many of us have found ourselves in situations where things did not turn out as we anticipated but were not subjected to it being in the Guardian for others to read and make snide remarks. I ask you, if these were your children, would you rather they not have personnel come to their rescue when not needed or leave them for worse? Is this how Islanders are treated; with accusations and and punishment for finding themselves in a possibly life-threatening situation? Next time I see a car accident should I not call 911 INCASE no one is hurt? Think before you judge and certainly, before you speak. One officer was very kind and concerned, the other, was not. Shame on him and the rest of you who sit cowering behind a PC with much to say and little facts to support.

      June 16, 2014 - 22:37


  • Nanny McCarney
    June 16, 2014 - 22:25

    Would the Police roar if the situation happened with Adults....I think not the Teens made an unwise choice but how many times have we seen the same with other adults...They did not call 911 for help so why not help them if they were in trouble. Yes they should have had life jackets but lots of times we see this happen. Would the same Officers roar at a visitor for the summer vacationing here, I think not, or if it was an adult would they call there wife, or mother? Just because they are teens does not mean they should be treated automatically with a tongue lashing. Come on people put the shoe on your own foot before you judge or speak without knowing the facts. We are all equal or so that is what I've been brought up to believe! When did we as a society automatically assume because they are teenagers that they are trouble makers? I feel bad that they are being judged with and under interrogation just because of there age!! What is our society becoming?

  • 10 year kayaker
    June 16, 2014 - 22:12

    Excuse me? What did they do wrong? They put themselves in danger. They needlessly used emergency resources to watch their sorry asses get to shore. As a guy with 10 years under my belt of paddling in this harbour and elsewhere, the first rule of going out on the water is, play it safe. First and foremost, play it safe. You wanna test new gear, paddle up river . Low tide tonight, you can test your ride up on in 4 feet of water all along the North River. No, the first responders did not over react... A stern admonishment was the correct measure. Trust me, if an experienced paddler had helped in the rescue, the language/admonishment would have been harsher. Paying a fine of $2,000.00 would be better.

    • Charlotte
      June 16, 2014 - 23:08

      'They' needlessly used emergency resources?! No. They did not ask anyone to call 911 for them. They were not calling for help.

    • Carmen McGrattan
      June 17, 2014 - 10:02

      ^5 10 year kayaker, agree with you 100 %.... would anyone "rather" be reading the story of the 2 young men, drowned due to No PFD's.. .and blame the First Responders for being Too Slow !!! :)

  • god
    June 16, 2014 - 21:57

    the kids were fine . they were having fun . nothing was wrong . they were not drowning . they walked to shore

  • Heebee
    June 16, 2014 - 21:50

    Leave them alone .. nosy onlookers with nothing better to do. If they needed help their girlfriends would have called out. Live and learn, or are we not even allowed to do that these days? As for the police offer quoting a sticker price for service. .. charge it to the morons who called. Besides, it's your duty to serve, maybe you should have planned better who's on first before bring out the whole circus.

    • Drew
      June 17, 2014 - 10:04

      Thank you Heebee-couldn't have said it better myself!

  • Jenna
    June 16, 2014 - 21:48

    Kudos for the first responders getting there in record time, but did the teens really need the harshness given ? They didn't call for help. Yes they weren't wearing life jackets, that's careless but at least they has the sense to come to shore when they knew the canoe wasn't safe. I don't think they deserved to be yelled at like this, they didn't so anything wrong.

  • Logan LeClair
    June 16, 2014 - 21:48

    I would like to inform you that the guardian completely changed the story. I was one of the swimmers, and if you read the comments on their facebook page, you will see where I tell what ACTUALLY happened, not what they want you to hear so they can make good news.

  • Jeez louise
    June 16, 2014 - 21:39

    Why the uproar, what exactly did they do wrong? Yes they all should have pfd's but I dont think they deserved the ranting a raving, Gallant sounds like a real you know what.They didnt call in a false alarm or anything . As for the boat, what the heck do we have the dam thing for anyway , consider it a good training exercise.

  • stupid
    June 16, 2014 - 21:37

    This is so stupid . if they want to go for a boat ride who cares . the people who called 911 should be fined . what is this world coming to

    • tanner
      June 16, 2014 - 21:46

      Agreed, this is crazy. Their kids and its June, let them have some fun. The world is walking on eggshells...

  • Norma
    June 16, 2014 - 21:20

    Good, read them the riot act, it might save their lives.

  • Dundas Sue
    June 16, 2014 - 21:11

    send them a bill

    • don
      June 16, 2014 - 21:36

      sent them the bill is a good idea for ems,fire,police,etc. that may teach them next time.

    • Michael
      June 16, 2014 - 22:15

      Why would you send them the bill? They didn't do anything wrong and so what they didn't have a life jacket.. they weren't yelling for help either. This cop was just power tripping

  • Haha
    June 16, 2014 - 20:33

    Good! Better call their mothers.

    • 2 cents worth
      June 17, 2014 - 10:03

      Dear God............after what happened in Moncton!!!!! These cops are chastising a few teenagers that innocently went for a canoe ride. I totally agree that these teenagers should get an apology. If I was a parent of one of these children, I would demand an apology. Who the hell do the cops think they are? Ridiculous