VANCOUVER – They are all survivors, living through a battle against cancer, and last weekend they saved a man’s life.
The FLCC Fort-itude (Fort Langley Canoe Club, part of Abreast In A Boat) dragon boat team was about to begin its usual Saturday practice session in Fort Langley last Saturday, when they heard someone yelling for help.
Turns out a man had been out for a row earlier in the day and had grown tired. When he went to remove one of his oars before pulling up to the dock he fell in to the water without a lifejacket on.
Jan Choquette was standing on the dock at the time. She is not part of Abreast In A Boat, but she is on a dragon boat team.
“I heard a man saying ‘help, I need help’ and I turned around and saw a man floundering in the water there,” she said.
She yelled at the people nearby for help and to call 9-1-1 and that is when her water-safety training kicked in.
“I pointed,” she said. “I kept my eye on him and I pointed at him, and that’s one thing that we’re told all the time and drilled every time we go out in the boat.”
Choquette said a man on the dock at the time also jumped into the water to swim towards the drowning man.
“And then the man, as he was floating down the river a bit, he kept yelling ‘help, help me’ and I called out to him time and again ‘help is coming, hold on,'” she said, “and I just kept walking and then I saw the fellow dive into the water, swim towards him and that’s when I saw you guys paddling down [the] river.”
The ‘you guys’ were the FLCC Fort-itude, who had heard the man’s cries from hundreds of metres away.
“And I said to our crew, ‘somebody needs help, let’s go’,” said Fort-itude member Heather Innes. “It was like doing a 500-metre race, from the other side of the bridge, coming down.”
As the group of women reached the two men in the water they threw them their extra lifejackets, their First Aid kit and a few lines.
“The girls on the team were so amazing,” said member Juanita Peglar.
“The fellow in the water was so cold, so weak, we tried to get him into the boat but he just said ‘I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything’,” she said. Both men had grown so cold at that point they were struggling to keep their heads above water.
They towed the two men to the shore where they sat for about 10 minutes until they began to feel stronger, and then they brought them to the main dock alongside the river.
By that time the paramedics had arrived.
“It was a scary thing,” said Peglar.
Choquette said it was a very emotional day and without all the people coming together to save this man the outcome could have been very different.
“The fellow who was in the water, he was not staying afloat,” she said. “He wasn’t able to swim, his head was going under the water, I think had it been in many more moments he wouldn’t have made it.”
“It was that close.”
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