Sheilah Sweatman was 29 when she drowned while working as a search and rescue volunteer in 2011. Photo submitted

Nelson Search and Rescue volunteer who died during mission remembered

Sheilah Sweatman drowned during a recovery in 2011

Seven years after her tragic death, the spirit of Sheilah Sweatman continues to have an impact on Nelson Search and Rescue.

“Sheilah had a powerful spirit. And I still ask for her advice and wonder what she would think of the changes in SAR over the years,” said Callie Chatten, the NSAR president.

Sweatman, a volunteer team leader, died June 29, 2011, while attempting to recover a submerged vehicle in the Goat River, near Creston. Her leg got caught on a steel cable and she was pulled into the water and drowned.

In November 2012, an inquest panel issued nine recommendations to prevent similar deaths, including developing universal standards for swift water rescue and recovery as well as universal standards for equipment.

“Sheilah is still very much a part of our team. Even though our newer members did not know her personally, she still inspires them with her legacy. She has become a pillar in the search and rescue community, and that community extends far beyond our Kootenay mountains that she loved,” Chatten said in a statement.

She said since the accident, NSAR has moved into a new hall dedicated to Sweatman, renovated a classroom and office and integrated other safety measures including mandatory swift water awareness training, and added RADeMS, a SAR-specific risk management tool.

Chatten added, “And thanks to grants, public donations, and short-term funding we have also made improvements to equipment and invested in training, which has expanded our capabilities. I hope she would approve.

“I miss her candor, smile and bear hugs. Sheilah’s presence is with us beyond the Hall and her monument. She is with us when we’re training or on call outs. On the river. In the mountains.”

Sweatman’s monument, a cairn-like rock sculpture created using rocks from search and rescue teams across B.C., is now being accompanied by a memorial garden. “I don’t think of (the garden) as a project with a completion date. It’s like grief, it will be an ongoing process, it will evolve and change, and we will find beauty and comfort,” said Chatten.

This weekend, the family and close friends of the woman — nicknamed Sheesh and who lived by the motto “Find your own path” — will retreat to a family cottage north of Winnipeg to reminisce.

“We reserve the last few days of June and a lot of July for family and close friends,” said Sweatman’s father, Wynn. “Our cottage is located in an area of the lake that is water access only and off the grid.”

At the time of her death, Sheilah had two pets — a German shepherd named Freya and cat named Bob Dylan. Both have been with Wynn and his wife Teddi at their Winnipeg home ever since.

“To this day, and everyday, the drive that Sheesh wanted in her dog is very evident, makes her a handful and a welcome, constant member of our family. Bob is calm and gentle all the time,” writes Wynn.

 

Sheilah’s Monument and memorial plaque are located at the Nelson Search and Rescue Hall. Photos submitted

Sheilah’s Monument and memorial plaque are located at the Nelson Search and Rescue Hall. Photos submitted

Just Posted

West Kootenay highways a mess as heavy snowfall continues

‘Roads are very icy, people have to be patient and have to slow down’

Over $25,000 raised for Columbia Basin literacy

Success for 2018 Books for Kids campaign

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

Grand Forks bantam team takes Nelson tournament

The team dominated the competition with some outstanding displays of skill and technique.

Donate to the Grand Forks and District Public Library

The library is undertaking significant washroom renovations.

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Twenty-four seperate counts in B.C. cities found there are thousands of homeless in all corners of province

UPDATE: B.C. judge grants $10M bail for Huawei executive wanted by U.S.

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Most Read