A diver was rescued in Hartley Bay and airlifted to Prince Rupert on March 8. (File photo)

Diver airlifted following accident at 1946 navy shipwreck

Hartley Bay search and rescue teams assisted the diver, and he was airlifted to Prince Rupert

A diver had to be airlifted from Hartley Bay in the Douglas Channel last week after sustaining a broken wrist and developing decompression sickness.

A Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Victoria (JRCC Victoria) spokesman said the diver was part of a crew conducting dive operations on March 8 at the wreck of the U.S. Army transport ship Brigadier General M. G. Zalinski.

“This was a diving emergency aboard a barge that was working at the Zalinksi cleanup site,” said the spokesman. “The contractor working at the site contacted JRCC to let us know they had a diver that required a medevac.”

The Guardian, a vessel attached to RCM-SAR 70 (Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue) in Hartley Bay, sped to the wreck’s location to provide logistical support for the diver’s rescue.

The diver was brought to the surface by a rescue diver employed by the contractor, where he regained consciousness and was treated by a first aid crew before being loaded into a hyperbaric chamber located on the barge.

The diver was kept in the chamber while the barge was towed to Hartley Bay by the tug that was assisting in the dive operation.

“Helijet and Emergency Health Services picked him up and transported him to Prince Rupert. He was flown by EHS to Vancouver General Hospital,” said the spokesman.

READ MORE: B.C. search and rescue stats climbing up

The Zalinski, which sank in 1946 in the Grenville Channel in the Inside Passage, went down loaded with over 700 tonnes of bunker oil, ammunition and bombs that were destined for Alaska.

The ship sank to a depth of nearly 30 metres within 20 minutes of running aground on rocks nearly 90km from Prince Rupert, with no loss of life.

Starting in 2003 a number of oil slicks were spotted around the site of the wreck, which was located later that year. Divers descended to the wreck to plug leaks in the hull, but all operations were stopped when it was discovered that the Zalinski was carrying munitions.

Recovery operations continued in 2013 amid reports of more leaks, but the bulk of the bunker oil and the munitions still remain on board the Zalinski.

READ MORE: Elderly couple from Prince Rupert rescued in Douglas Channel


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