WINNIPEG — No matter how he explains it, Tyler Fong says he always gets the same reaction when he tells people about his head foot plunge off the top of a 48 meter long waterfall.
“They either say ‘there is no way that actually happened’ or ‘you are so lucky to be alive’,” Fong said.
It was May 17 when Fong and Andrew Johnston decided to go for a hike in Goldstream Provincial Park.
Both are from Victoria and the friends and former teammates with the University of Manitoba football team had hiked its trails before.
But that spring day they decided to venture to the top of the waterfall.
“We were just kind of sitting on the edge of the riverbank and we were hanging out, enjoying the view,” Johnston said. “I remember him looking down and he ended up taking a quick step and as soon as I said ‘watch your step, that’s when he went over.”
The BC Niagara Falls is only three meters shorter than Ontario’s. To put it in perspective, it’s the equivalent to falling from a 15 story building.
“I thought I was dead. I thought that was it,” Fong said.
While the drop would take just seconds, Fong says he remembers with great detail thinking of family and friends, and how to survive.
“I realized there was water at the bottom and decided I should put my feet first so I didn’t risk a concussion or break my neck,” Fong said.
He landed in a pool of water just a few meters wide and swam for his life. When he emerged a panicked Johnston was rushing over to meet him. His friend started running to the bottom of the falls the second Fong went over.
“I remember getting a feeling of helplessness,” Johnston said.
Miraculously, Fong suffered only a broken rib and punctured lung.
Less than three months after the fall, he was back on the football field and this month the safety was named one of the Bisons defensive captains.
While both Johnston and Fong say they’re not religious, both believe someone was looking out for them that day.
And in case Fong ever needs a reminder of how close he came, there is the new tattoo he got shortly after the fall, with the date: 05/17/15
“Just be thankful for what I have, keep working hard and not taking anything for granted.”
To watch the full story watch Focus Manitoba on Sunday September 27 at 6:30 p.m.