2012-05-29 08:00 PDT
Constable Michael Potvin drowned on the Stewart River in Mayo after the RCMP vessel he was in capsized on July 13, 2010.
Since that time, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Transport Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board have conducted extensive independent investigations. The RCMP has cooperated with all the involved agencies and has conducted additional internal health and safety reviews.
Flowing from the investigations, the RCMP has been provided with direction and recommendations to reduce the risk of a similar workplace tragedy in the future. We have learned difficult but valuable lessons from this tragedy, and have committed to sharing insights that may contribute to the safety of all Yukoners, while respecting the processes of those organizations responsible for overseeing our employees’ health and safety.
This is an overview of the findings and responses undertaken by the RCMP to enhance the safety of our employees so that they, in turn, are ready to protect our citizens and communities.
The lessons learned from this tragedy may also serve to inform and benefit the public and result in greater water safety practices by all Yukon residents.
Investigations have determined that the RCMP member who was operating the vessel had the certifications and training required to do so. The members were not, however, sufficiently familiar with the vessel or the specific waterway on which they were testing the watercraft prior to putting it into service for the season.
The RCMP in Yukon has responded with the following policy and training changes to enhance the safety of our members that include:
Approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) were in the watercraft. As required by already-existing RCMP policy, both RCMP members had been wearing the equipment earlier in the voyage but when the incident took place neither of the two RCMP members were wearing their Personal Flotation Devices.
RCMP policy on the mandatory use of PFDs has been addressed in the following ways:
Subsequent testing and expert examination determined that over several years modifications had been made to the vessel which, combined with environmental and mechanical factors, resulted in water coming over the transom, which made the vessel unstable in the water.
Investigations identified a blockage in the fuel system as the cause for the motor failure. It was determined that it was unlikely that the blockage would have been diagnosed in the field, but would best be corrected through scheduled service and repair.
The watercraft involved, which was built in the mid-1980s, was removed from service immediately following the drowning of Constable Potvin and the use of other vessels by the same manufacturer was suspended. Based on consultation with Transport Canada, the other vessels were deemed safe and were returned to service.
The investigations into the incident recommended that the RCMP expand and improve RCMP watercraft training across Yukon, enhance fleet maintenance practices and develop specifications for watercraft being used for police responses.
Regarding the training of operators and the maintenance of vessels, the RCMP has introduced or reinforced policy, training and equipment requirements to enhance safety for RCMP employees:
MDivision in inspecting the RCMP Yukon fleet. Six vessels had reached the end of their life cycle and have been replaced. New watercraft now meet specifications which have been developed to better reflect the type of activities police perform on rivers and lakes in the Territory.
On behalf of the men and women of the RCMP and the many individuals and organizations that contribute to public safety, we hope that everyone who uses watercraft will be able to benefit from these lessons in order to be safe on our Territory’s waterways.
Sgt. Don RogersMedia Relations Officer