Fatal swim: Greenwood crew part of dramatic rescue off of Prince Edward Island

Published on August 9, 2014

An American tourist who loved to swim met a dangerous riptide near Morell, Prince Edward Island, Friday morning and was drowned before rescue officials could save her.

RCMP say the name of the 69-year-old woman - believed to be from Washington, D.C. - won’t be released until her family members have all been notified. She was a guest at the nearby Rodd Crowbush Resort and had been reportedly swimming regularly since arriving in the province.

The dangerous north shore surf condition warnings issued by Parks Canada Aug. 8 kept Kelly Murnaghan out of the water as she watched the rescue unfold.

“I was out walking the beach and the winds were very strong. I saw the ambulance drive down and wait as this helicopter arrived and rescue people jumped into the water,’’ said the native of South Africa. “It was a beautiful day, but not for going in the water. She has must have been so helpless out there.”

RCMP estimate the visitor went in for a swim around 11 a.m. and, according to beach witnesses, the strong waves carried her well off-shore. A Cormorant search and rescue helicopter from 413 Squadron, based at 14 Wing Greenwood, located the woman more than 200 metres from the shore and pulled her from the churning waters just before 1 p.m. The victim was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown and medical staff tried to revive her.

“The rescue people tried to lower a basket down to put her in,’’ said Murnaghan-  now living in Portsmouth, N.H, and staying in a nearby family cottage. “But it was impossible with the wind… it just kept blowing around. So the rescue guy in the water had to wrap his arms around her and they lifted them both out.”

A family from Nova Scotia was on the beach, but not in the water, and thought they saw something out in the waves.

“My husband saw something, but it was hard to tell,’’ said the woman with two young children. “The waves were so high and the wind was so strong you could hardly have a conversation… you could barely even see her.”

Large waves were pounding the shoreline here and three children playing in the water were instructed by guardians to only go knee deep into the water.

PEI’s Kings District RCMP, Island EMS and the Morell Fire Department all attended the scene. RCMP requested support from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, which dispatched the Greenwood team to the scene.  The Canadian Coast Guard was also alerted and directed vessels to that area.