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Edmonton police help with rescue of raft on English Channel

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The Edmonton Police Emergency Communications Centre takes all kinds of calls for help, but one in January is being called a 'once in a career' type of call.

"I answered how I normally do, Edmonton Police Service, how can I help you," said Rebecca Stephen, an EPS emergency communications officer.

"A woman sounded pretty frantic over the phone," she said.

In the 911 call the woman asked for an emergency number for the United Kingdom.

"Sorry ma'am, I need you to just slow down a little bit okay? I'm going to get you some help but I just need to know what's going on," Stephen can be heard telling the woman in the call.

"So he's stuck between France and the U.K.?" Stephen asked.

"Yeah, yeah, the water," responded the woman. "Like in the middle of the U.K. and then France. There's like 50 people," the woman continued.

The woman's brother had sent her a message on Snapchat that said he was one of 50 people stranded on a raft somewhere between France and the U.K.

"She said my brother's on a raft somewhere on the English Channel, the waters are getting choppy, there's women and children there and they're all gonna die," said Stephen.

Stephen has dealt with calls for river rescues here in the city, but said this kind of call was a first, so she involved her supervisor.

"If you're reaching out to Edmonton and you're in the English Channel it must be quite serious and they're desperate so we took it to the next level," said Becky Morrison, a supervisor at the Emergency Communications & Operations Management Branch.

"There's 50 lives there and we need to make sure something happened," Morrison said.

They contacted the RCMP and Interpol. Morrison said the information they were able to get from the woman was used by the U.K. Border Force in their search of the English Channel.

About 12 hours after the initial 911 call, Morrison said they got an update from Interpol.

"The Interpol message that we received back did confirm that all 50 parties were safe in England, so they did get them across the Channel," said Morrison.

It's unclear why the woman's brother sent a plea for help across the pond instead of contacting emergency personnel that were closer.

"He might have been apprehensive, it was a raft of refugees so might have been scared to ask for help," said Stephen.

"Or it might have been the only way he could communicate was through the app he was using with his family," she added.

They don't know what happened to the 50 people after the rescue, but Stephen is just glad she was able to help.

"It's a happy ending which is all I can ask for," she said.

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