Son keeps cellphone dry to call for rescue

Published: September 12, 2006 | 4728th good news item since 2003

When Charlie Velikovsky’s fishing boat tipped over, spilling him, his 21-year-old son and their dog into the frigid water near Trial Island, the 53-year-old thought they were all doomed.

But a panicked 911 call made by his son, Kyle, who struggled to keep his cellphone above water, likely saved their lives.

The five-metre aluminum fishing boat capsized Sunday at about 9:50 a.m. off Oak Bay. The engine had just stalled as the father and son set crab traps and began a morning of coho salmon fishing. The wake of a passing ship swamped the boat.

Velikovsky and Kyle, without life-jackets, clung to the overturned hull. With them in the water was their seven-year-old golden retriever Tasha.

“My son was panicking of course. I somehow kept it as calm as I could be,” said Velikovsky, who lives in Saanich.

On Monday, police released a recording of Kyle’s call to 911, in which he is heard shouting and struggling to stay above the water.

“You’re going to have to calm down, you’re screaming and I can’t understand you,” the operator told him.

“I’m in the ocean,” Kyle yelled, making almost inaudible references to Trial Island. The line soon went dead.

Police dispatchers replayed the call until they could decipher the references to Trial Island, which sits more than 1,000 metres out from McNeill Bay. The boat was about 300 metres from the island, Velikovsky said.

A Victoria police marine boat pulled the two men and the dog out of the water 13 minutes later. The police boat was out training and doing maintenance, so it was able to respond quickly. It also alerted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre and coast guard auxiliary.

“Without a doubt, we saved their lives,” Victoria police Acting Insp. Les Sylven said of the combined rescue efforts.

The police boat took the group to Clover Point, where veterinarians from an SPCA-sponsored dog walk examined Tasha.

No one was injured, but Velikovsky said in the future he’ll always wear a life-jacket with a whistle to help him attract attention.

The boat is ruined. “That’s my last worry,” said Velikovsky. “I’m just so thankful to be here.”

Published in Rescues
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