A team of RCMP officers recently found themselves at the right place and time to help a couple in peril.
A man and a woman had dropped their kayaks into the Lower Niagara River at the Queenston Sand Docks near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on June 12.
Cst. Michael Baceda, a member of the Hamilton-Niagara Regional Detachment Border Integrity Unit, was preparing to walk the shoreline to patrol for non-essential travellers that morning and came upon the pair.
"I just chatted with them about the river, that the border was closed and they told me it was their first time out for the season," he says. "We said our good-byes, I turned and walked away, and it seemed like 30 seconds later I heard cries for help."
The woman's kayak had overturned and she was struggling to make her way to the shore where she eventually grabbed onto a tree limb that had fallen in the river. The man was in the water, too, but was closer to the riverbank.
"She had her arms and legs wrapped around the tree but eventually we (Baceda and the male kayaker) got to her and brought her ashore," says Baceda.
Baceda's partners for the day — boat operators Cpl. Daniel Carter and Cst. Kevin Higgins — were in their Zodiac Hurricane vessel and arrived minutes after their colleague called for help. The other two officers helped get the man and both kayaks out of the water.
"I'm glad we were there because by the time she got out, she was exhausted," says Baceda, who added that the pair didn't require medical attention. "It seemed slow to develop, but things happened very quickly."
The seven-member unit was created to enforce the March 21 Canada–U.S. border closure to non-essential travellers and ensure boaters comply with any restrictions.
Cpl. Augustine Chung, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Border Integrity Unit, says their mandate is to prevent, deter and detect unlawful activity at the border, which could include money, drug and gun smuggling, and illegal immigration.
After several weeks of collecting information about where the unit should conduct its work, patrols of the river began on June 4.
"We generally put ourselves in a position where we're aware that there might be some activity on the river and we just want to make sure we're on top of things," adds Chung, who says the unit works closely with the U.S. Border Patrol, Niagara Regional Police and the Canada Border Services Agency.
RCMP land and river patrols are being conducted along the upper or lower parts of the river to warn boaters of the border restrictions, look for any suspicious behaviour and encourage safe boating practices.
"There's also a lot of small boat traffic (from the United States) on the river and we just want to make sure no one ventures over to the Canadian side," says Higgins.
Chung says the unit's presence was a bit of good luck for the kayakers.
"The current is powerful in that area and it should never be underestimated," says Chung. "Obviously things could have gone much worse."