Two campers who drowned in Kalamalka Lake last year were intoxicated in an overloaded boat during a storm, a coroner has found.
Fredrick Marshall and Albert Castanelli were trying to motor back to Vernon from their campsite in a 3.7-metre aluminum boat when it capsized May 21. Their bodies were found floating near shore the next day.
The Vernon men had gone camping in Cosens Bay, an area in the northeast arm of the lake that's accessible only by boat. A friend had ferried them, their supplies and a dog to the campsite in two trips on May 17. The boat was too small to carry them all in one voyage, coroner Margaret Janzen said in her report.
The boat owner stayed with the men for two nights and drove the boat with Marshall to Vernon. Marshall, 50, motored back alone to the campsite on the understanding that he and Castanelli, 47, would return to Vernon two days later.
The friends began texting each other about 2:30 p.m. May 21. A sudden storm blew up about that time, delaying the men's departure because of heavy rain and lightning. Marshall texted the owner they were on their way about 45 minutes later.
"There had been a slight lull in the storm, but it soon picked up again," said Janzen. "The boat owner texted that they may have missed their window. Eventually, Mr. Marshall quit responding to the boat owner's texts."
He never did heard from them. The next morning, a Coldstream man out for a walk in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park noticed a cooler floating in the water. Then he spotted the floating body of a small white dog.
He called RCMP, who alerted Vernon Search and Rescue. Search volunteers in two six-metre boats recovered the men's bodies. RCMP retrieved the dog.
Both men wore life-jackets that were too large and ill-fitting to be effective, said Janzen. Marshall wore jeans, runners and two jackets.
Castanelli was dressed in jeans, a shirt, jacket and hiking boots. He also had a fanny pack.
Marshall had a valid boat-operator's licence. However, the weight of the men and their supplies was likely a handicap, said Janzen.
"The small boat would have been heavily loaded and low in the water. This would make it more likely to handle poorly or capsize."
Toxicology exams revealed Marshall's blood-alcohol content was .10 and Castanelli's .11, levels consistent with moderate intoxication, Janzen said.
The coroner attributed the drownings to severe weather, the men's failure to wear properly fitted flotation devices and moderate intoxication. She classified it as accidental.