All together to cross a river

SHARE
Don Geddes, of Methven search and rescue, guides Jack Halford, 12, Skye Crossen, 11, Connor Duffell, 11 and Ella Mackenzie,11, across the Ashburton River during river crossing safety training.

By Toni Williams

Navigating safely across any river requires careful consideration, as the boys and girls in the Scout Adventure Plus programme found out last week on their final day of adventuring.

Gathered on the banks of the Ashburton River, under the State highway bridge, 22 children – along with their adult leaders – were taught river crossing safety techniques from Methven Search and Rescue’s Don Geddes and Hamish Mee and a team of helpers.

They were taught going into the river in a group was “a lot stronger than one person going in by themselves”.

But it was important to consider whether the river crossing was really needed, to take into account the condition of the water and items of clothing being worn.

Other things to consider were the speed of the current, the water depth, the surface of the river bed (whether its slippery), any potential downstream hazards (like fallen logs, or overhanging willow) and where the river exit was going to happen (to avoid other risks such as steep banks).

The children learned how to interlock their arms using a stick or loose backpack straps for added safety (with waist strap) and also how to use their backpacks – with valuables secured inside in airtight plastic bags – as flotation devices in case they slipped and floated downstream.

Using a heavier person on the up-stream side to anchor the crossing and moving at a steady pace, almost parallel to the current, the children made their way across the swiftly moving Ashburton River under the watch of Mr Geddes and Mr Mee – with catchers in place downstream.

The children also learned not to turn around mid-stream if the crossing was unsafe, but to back out slowly.