**And we love Americans **
U.S. partiers wash up in Canada, blown acrossSt. Clair River
’We had 1,500 people who were in complete need of help, and everyonewalked away alive’
An estimated 1,500 Americans illegally and unexpectedly washed up in Canada late Sunday after strong windsblew them across the St. Clair River near Sarnia, Ont.
They were participating in theannual Port Huron Float Down, during which people simply float down theriver on rafts, inner tubes and other flotation devices from Port Huron, Mich.
High winds pushed them to anumber of points along the Canadian shore. They had to be rescued by Sarniapolice, the OPP, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Service Agency andemployees from a nearby chemical company Lanxess Canada.
In the Canadian Coast Guard videobelow, you can hear thankful Americans praising Canada for its rescue efforts.
“Godbless Canada!” shouts one floater.
"Thank you, Canada!"yells another.
“There were people in placesyou’d never think something would float, but there were Americanseverywhere,” Peter Garapick of the Canadian Coast Guard said. “Therewas no chance for anything floating or people on inner tubes to go anywhere butCanada.”
Winds were consistently blowingat 10-15 knots and gusting up to 27 knots. That’s sustained winds of about 20km/h and gusts of 50 km/h.
“The people who take part inthis are not mariners,” Garapick said. “They don’t look at the wind,the weather and the waves. We knew from the get-go, the winds were going tocause a problem. There’s no question they were involuntarily coming toCanada.”
Once the floaters were fished outof the water or simply gathered up on shore, they were shipped back to the U.S.on Sarnia Transit buses, with a police escort.
“It got crazy out there, butit worked out,” the Sarnia Police Service posted on its Facebook page.
The event has no sponsors, andnobody is responsible for its operation. There’s no registration process,either.
Shipping groups have been [FONT=Times New Roman]criticalof the Float Down over its safety implications and itsimpact on their operations in the river.[/FONT]
- **St. Clair River ‘not a playground’ shipping groups warn **
YouTube user Ernie Jacobs postedvideo of his group of floaters being “towed back to the United States fromCanada. We had a little incident.”
"They were terrified of entering another country without documentation. Noone carries their passport or any ID, and a lot were drinking alcohol,"Garapick said.
Some Americans, worriedabout landing in Canada without identification, attempted to swim back tothe U.S.
“We had to pull a lot ofpeople out of the water and say ‘no,’” he said. “They were veryupset, cold and miserable.”
On the shore, passersby weregiving their shirts off their backs to get people warm.
The last bus left Sarnia at about7:30 p.m., after people were picked up at a local gravel pit.
Garapick called Sunday’s float down the “worst in the history of theevent.”
- Port Huron Float Down endures on St. Clair River
“They don’t have a mariner’ssense. These are people who think they’re going for a dip in the pool,” hesaid. “We had 1,500 people who were in complete need of help,and everyone walked away alive.”
He wishes the event would end.
“It would certainly makelife easier and make it safer for everyone involved,” he said. “But Idon’t see happening. Wishful thinking.”
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