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July 8, 2003

Kayakers rescue deaf boy

From: Vancouver Sun, Canada - Jul 8, 2003

Hornby Is. camper wandered off, drifted in rowboat for hours

Louise Dickson
CanWest News Service

VICTORIA -- They didn't clap.

But when the little deaf boy, riding high in the firefighter's truck, saw everyone waving their hands from side-to-side at him, he grinned.

He could see relief on the faces of fellow campers, parents and staff at the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island. And he could read the applause in the movement of their hands.

The 10-year-old, who is also developmentally challenged, was rescued Saturday after drifting in a small rowboat into the Strait of Georgia for four hours.

"He was just happy for all the attention," said centre director Gord Campbell. "He had had an adventure and he was quite excited about it. But it was pretty emotional for all the people that were involved."

Deputy fire chief Rob Zielinski, a member of the search party, said the youngster "could have been out there for quite a while -- it was an outgoing tide."

The deaf boy was spotted by three kayakers about 8 p.m. off Sandpiper Beach, about one kilometre from his Tribune Bay campsite. He was standing up, trying to paddle a small rowboat.

"The kayakers knew something

wasn't right and they realized he couldn't speak. He was doing sign language," said Campbell.

They brought the boy to shore where volunteer firefighters checked him out to made sure he was OK. The boy was cold and his T-shirt was wet. But once he changed into a dry T-shirt, he was fine, said Campbell.

Firefighters brought him back to the centre where a frantic search by about 50 people was under way.

"He had no idea of the hoopla," said Campbell. "This was a parent's worst nightmare and, as centre director, my worst nightmare. I just hope there won't be a situation like that again."

The boy, who lives on the Lower Mainland, was attending family deaf camp with his parents, who are also deaf. After a day of activities including high ropes courses, climbing towers and ocean kayaking, the campers were back in the care of their parents.

Campbell, the father of a deaf child, doesn't know how or why the boy wandered off. But he thinks the boy came across a boat with oars on the beach at a neighbouring property and got inside.

-- Times Colonist

© Copyright 2003 The Province