PHOTOS: Winnipeg man survives kayak capsizing near The Forks
WINNIPEG — Tom Armstrong is an avid kayaker and has experience on both the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, but a casual Tuesday afternoon cruise turned into a near death experience.
Armstrong was heading upriver against the current near the Queen Elizabeth Way bridge over the Assiniboine River when his kayak capsized sending him into the frigid waters, without a life jacket. “This is it, this is it. I went under and thought, is this the way I am going to die?” Armstrong told Global News Tuesday evening.
“I knew something was going to happen. Both of us concurred something would happen,” Vic Ferrier told Global News. The 67-year-old photographer had been sitting on a bench at The Forks with a friend facing the river when he saw Armstrong paddle by. “The current is wicked right there and we both felt that something was about to happen.”
Ferrier wasn’t surprised when he saw the kayak float by, face down with no one in sight. Eventually Ferrier spotted Armstrong bobbing in the water, only his head sticking out.
“What else could I do, so I pulled my camera out, that’s what I do,” Ferrier started snapping pictures and caught every exciting moment of the incident from across the river.
“It’s unexplainable, it’s just…you’re fighting the current, you have to not drown, you’re trying to stay afloat,” Armstrong slowly fought his way through the powerful currents to the shore where passerby saw what was happening and rushed to the shore to help.
The Good Samaritans used a shovel to pull him up the steep muddy bank from where he lay exhausted, clinging to vines so he wouldn’t be swept back into the river.
“It was an unsafe, ignorant, selfish thing I did, especially for my family and friends,” Armstrong said about not wearing a life jacket, something he says was a first for him.
But the terrifying event won’t stop Armstrong from kayaking, “I’m going to continue doing it whether it’s tomorrow, but I definitely won’t be coming up the Assiniboine for a good month, month and a half, just play it safe. Stick to the Red River, with my life jacket on.”
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