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First responders pay respects to fallen SAR volunteers

June 18, 2012, Sechelt, B.C. - Two female search-and-rescue volunteers who died during a recent training exercise on a treacherous stretch of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast loved adventure, the ocean and large, powerful motorcycles, an emotional memorial service heard Sunday.

June 18, 2012
By The Canadian Press

About 1,000 chairs were set up inside a Sechelt, B.C. high school for the afternoon service dedicated to Angie Nemeth, 41, and
Beatrice Sorenson, 51.

The women died June 3 when they became trapped under an inflatable boat that flipped in the Skookumchuck Narrows, a stretch of dangerous tidal rapids about 120 kilometres north of Vancouver.

Filling 400 of the seats alone were members of the of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP, Canadian Forces and members of emergency-response units from outside the Sunshine Coast.

"Both were adventurers, both had motorbikes, and not the little kind,'' said John Wiseman, the leader of the women's
search-and-rescue unit. "They had hogs, and they were proud of that. They both had a passion for being on the water.''

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Wiseman said the women joined the unit at different times but became fast friends.

Organizers of the memorial promised the event would resemble a memorial given to fallen police and firefighters, and they kept that promise.

Vessels from the RCM-SAR escorted a BC Ferry bound with mourners to Sechelt Sunday, and a Cormorant helicopter from the Comox-based 442 search-and-rescue squadron flew over the memorial.

Inside, participants fixed black ribbons to their arms, and pipes and drums lead the families of the women along the rows of mourners.

Bruce Rushton, chaplain of the Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services, said Nemeth and Sorenson were volunteering and serving the community when they died.

Members of the women's families asked that their comments not be recorded, but they talked emotionally of the women who had a love of life and family, infectious laughs, and a desire to give back to their communities.

The Transportation Safety Board has said that a final report on the tragedy is at least a year away, but has confirmed there was a
problem with a self-righting mechanism on the inflatable boat.