The Spirit of Harrison boat has been used to save countless lives in one of the Lower Mainlands busiest lakes since it went into service 25 years ago.
On Friday, the eight-metre vessel was stolen off the Kent Harrison Search and Rescue compound, ending up in a field in Chilliwack.
“I guess the one word that sums this up for me is ‘violated,’” SAR team manager Neil Brewer told Black Press Media Saturday morning.
“I was personally responsible for getting that vessel 25 years ago and so it has a personal connection or me.”
Update- it has been recovered by RCMP, they are investigating. Thanks for everyone's help with this.
— BCSARA (@BCSARAssoc) March 17, 2018
The vessel, which is stored on the team’s gated compound had been seen heading west on Highway 1 in Chilliwack Friday night, shortly after it was stolen.
“Funny thing is, they stole with it with the mast erected,” Brewer said. “When they were driving down the freeway they hit a bridge and broke the mast off. It was picked it up by a [SAR] member not realizing it was from the rescue boat.”
RCMP are investigating the theft, with no word on if the boat was damaged.
The Spirit of Harrison was taken out of service about a year ago, replaced by a larger boat, the Harrison Osprey. But Brewer said the boat, with an estimated value of $50,000 to $60,000, was still deployable and that the volunteer-based rescue team has plans to sell it.
“It’s been deployed literally hundreds of times, saved countless lives, and certainly has a huge emotional connection to many, many SAR volunteers who have trained on it,” Brewer said.
Third theft in three years for Agassiz-based rescue team
While the Spirit of Harrison has been recovered and is in RCMP custody, this isn’t the first time thieves have gotten away with the volunteer team’s equipment.
“This is the third time in two or three years,” Brewer said.
The first time, theives broke into the logistics trailer – assumably looking for ATVS, he said, but still took off with other equipment.
In another instance, a smaller 12-foot boat sitting on a trailer was taken off the compound. The boat and trailer were later found, but the engine had been removed.
Brewer said the vibrant Spirit of Harrison was the biggest piece of equipment to ever be stolen, being stored on an easily visible lot.
“So to steal a boat that size and that visible requires a lot of nerve.”