Bonnie Whyte stands near the spot where a motorboat zipped by her, just 10 feet away from her, while she was swimming in the Vedder River on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. “I’m actually very lucky I got out of the way,” she said on Aug. 20. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Bonnie Whyte stands near the spot where a motorboat zipped by her, just 10 feet away from her, while she was swimming in the Vedder River on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. “I’m actually very lucky I got out of the way,” she said on Aug. 20. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Senior swimming in Vedder River almost struck by oblivious boater in Chilliwack

Close call on Vedder River as Chilliwack city hall calls for reduced speeds by motorized craft

A woman swimming in the Vedder River was almost struck by a motor boat zooming up the river.

Bonnie Whyte, 72, says something has to be done.

“I’m actually very lucky that I got out of the way,” she said.

Boats like the aluminum one that almost hit her often speed up river past the Keith Wilson bridge.

She was in the Vedder on the Yarrow side on Wednesday (Aug. 18), swimming as she often does on hot days.

Whyte said she spotted the flat-bottomed boat coming toward her.

“I tried to swim back to the Chilliwack side,” she said.

People on shore were desperately trying to wave the boat off.

”I was trying to hold my arms up so they’d see me.”

The boat missed her by about 10 feet.

“When I got out of the water I was totally exhausted and out of breath,” Whyte recounted.

Passersby had to rush to her aid.

Bonnie Whyte stands near the spot where a motorboat zipped by her, just 10 feet away from her, while she was swimming in the Vedder River on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. “I’m actually very lucky I got out of the way,” she said on Aug. 20. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Bonnie Whyte stands near the spot where a motorboat zipped by her, just 10 feet away from her, while she was swimming in the Vedder River on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. “I’m actually very lucky I got out of the way,” she said on Aug. 20. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Whyte said she made a police report, called City of Chilliwack, and Ministry of Transportation and Highways after the incident.

She had been cooling off in a popular swimming hole, accessed from near the end of Hopedale Road, as usual.

“It’s a fabulous recreational area for fishing, tubing and swimming,” Whyte said, a former swimming instructor.

“I live for swimming. I’m passionate about my river.”

But jet boats and other motorized vessels have no business on the river, she said. They are allowed under federal rules at this point.

“This boat has been roaring up the river for the past three years,” Whyte said.

A spokesperson for City of Chilliwack said it’s been a concern, and they’re looking at reducing vessel speeds in the area.

READ MORE: City of Chilliwack looking to slow down motorized watercraft on Vedder Canal

“The Vedder River is one of Chilliwack’s most popular spots. As more people visit the area, fast boats on the water have created noise and public safety concerns,” said Liana Wiebe, spokesperson for the City of Chilliwack.

The river is considered a “navigable waterway” by Transport Canada under the Federal Navigation Protection Act.

That being said city staff are looking at options to “allow everyone to enjoy the river safely,” Wiebe said, including applying to Transport Canada for a vessel speed restriction to five kilometres per hour on the Vedder River between the Vedder Bridge and where the river meets the Fraser.

As part of that process, consultation with other governments and the public has been completed and they will be reaching out to stakeholder user groups shortly. More details at engagechilliwack.com/boats.

“Residents are welcome to share any comments or questions they have for the city regarding motorized boats on the Vedder there, as well,” Wiebe said.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


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