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Just before touring the community to thank residents for their generosity, (back-front, left-right) Rick Lindsay, Inuvik coast guard auxiliary unit leader; fundraiser Vince Sharpe; Const. Kelvin Swinimer, Inuvik RCMP; Randy Shermack, municipal enforcement officer; Duane DeBastien, bylaw officer; Fire Chief Al German; and firefighter Barry Cook, pose with Inuvik's first official rescue boat. - Chris Hunsley/NNSL photo

Safer than ever

Chris Hunsley
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 11/05) - Hundred dollar bills weren't falling from the sky, but for fundraiser Vince Sharpe that might as well have been the case.

After the May drowning of 21-year-old Marshall Sayers in the east branch of the Mackenzie River near Inuvik, Sharpe took it upon himself to ensure a rescue boat was on hand in the community at all times.

Until now, the Fire Department has had to borrow boats for rescues, adding precious minutes to their life-saving efforts.

"It's something that's been needed for a long time," said Fire Chief Al German. "Now we have the right tools for the job."

Within two weeks of beginning his collection campaign in the community of approximately 3,500, Sharpe had amassed $32,000 for his charitable coffers.

"I'm just overwhelmed by people's generosity. It blows me away," said Sharpe.

"It was such a good cause they just threw their money at it."

Individual residents eagerly handed over $100 or more at a time while businesses wrote $1,000 checks by the boat load, he explained.

The 17-foot, double hull, welded aluminum boat came complete with a 30 horse power motor for a cost of $18,000.

Equipment will be added so a helicopter can transport the boat to difficult-to-reach areas.

New floater suits for divers and safety equipment were purchased with some of the remaining funds and Sharpe plans to fly professional rescuers in to the community to train emergency personnel.

"Thank you Inuvik, you're all heroes," said Sharpe.