Victoria police enlisted the help of several civilians in their attempt to reach a woman who was screaming for help from a boat on the Gorge Waterway.

At around 7 p.m. Wednesday night, officers responded to reports of a woman crying for help from a boat that appeared to be sinking on the Gorge Waterway near Banfield Park.

Since VicPD do not have their own marine unit or own a marine vessel, they had to garner assistance from partner marine response agencies, Victoria Harbour Ferries, several boaters in the area, as well as locals who offered their watercraft to ferry officers to the boat.

By the time officers were trying to commandeer these vessels, the woman in the boat was reportedly screaming “he’s trying to kill me”.

However, once police reached the vessel, it became clear that the boat was not sinking and that there were two people inside.

No chargeable offences

As soon as VicPD officers converged on the boat, a man came up on deck and initially refused to follow police commands.

“The first thing that officers do in such cases is to separate the two people, and he wouldn’t follow the command to move,” VicPD media spokesperson Bowen Osoko tells Victoria Buzz.

Once officers eventually de-escalated the situation, the man cooperated with them and police were able to speak to the woman. Upon doing so, it became evident that she was not in distress and did not need assistance.

The man was therefore allowed to leave, and despite being offered a ride from police, decided to instead row away on a makeshift stand-up paddle board made from a hot tub lid.

“The investigation shows that the circumstances revealed themselves to not involve any chargeable offence and the woman was not in danger. Officers were able to speak with both parties and determined that she was safe and that indeed no offence had occurred,” said Osoko.

“Because there’s no offence, there won’t be any investigative follow up. Officers may check in to make sure that they’re safe.”

Civilians awarded

Police confirmed that when they spoke to the woman, she was able to answer all questions and all signs that showed she wasn’t at risk to herself or others.

In the meantime, the civilians who responded by going above and beyond to assist police in reaching the vessel have been nominated for VicPD Civic Service Awards which will be conferred in a ceremony at VicPD headquarters at 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24th.

“These six citizens stepped up and greatly assisted the Victoria Police Department when we needed them most,” said Chief Constable Del Manak.

“However, this event also highlighted how important it is to have a clear protocol for a coordinated response to incidents like this in local waters. That is something we will be reviewing in the wake of this incident.”