The head of a group that represents jet boat users in the Lower Mainland is calling for cooler heads to prevail after a caught-on-camera violent incident on the Vedder River on Sunday.
Chilliwack RCMP launched an investigation after a man who was fishing from the riverbank was beaten viciously by three men who sped up in a boat near the Lumsden Road area.
Witnesses told Global News that anglers on the bank had previously yelled at the boat to slow down.
“It saddens me,” said Rocky McIntyre, president of the Fraser Valley Jet Boaters Association.
“We started this group to remember our friend Allan who passed away when he was in his jet boat and it flipped … the fact that our community is just being tarnished and torn apart, it just hurts to watch. I just want everybody to get along, and I want there to be respect among all the user groups.”
Chilliwack RCMP investigate beating of angler caught on video
McIntyre said he couldn’t speak to the specifics of what happened on Sunday, but that there has long been friction between anglers and jet boaters on the river, which may have reached a “boiling point.”
He alleged it is not uncommon for anglers on the shore to curse or throw rocks at people boating up river, and said someone smashed the window on his own boat with a thrown stone.
“It’s not illegal to run these jetboats on the river — it is illegal however to harass people that are fishing, and it is illegal to harass people that are boating,” he said.
“The behaviour of everybody needs to change, we need to be able to get along together as a community.”
McIntyre acknowledged that regulations require boaters to keep to 10 km/h when they are within 30 metres of the shore, and said it was a rule his group’s members are serious about following.
Tixweeltel Kelsey Charlie, a councillor with the Sts’Ailes First Nation whose territory the river runs through, said he has had concerns for some time about potential conflicts on the river.
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“A disaster or a tragedy is imminent, because there is so much traffic and unruliness that happens on this little river, an exact same kind of scenario — somebody flying by on a jet boat and people are just standing there and its within feet of one another,” he said.
“Of course there are tensions that are going to rise because some guy are on the boat and they feel like they’re entitled to be riding on there and there other guys on the beech and they feel like they need to do what they need to do. So I really feel like something is going to happen.
Charlie said the nation is looking at mitigation measures it could implement on the river for safety, not just of boaters and anglers, but of families and children who use the area to picnic and swim.
The beating victim was treated in hospital for a concussion and fractures to the nose and cheek and has since been released.
Chilliwack RCMP says it has received several tips about who may have been involved, and is trying to piece together what led up to the assault.
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