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Langley father dies hours after saving woman from drowning in Mission lake

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A beloved Langley father and minor football coach has died less than two days after rescuing a woman from drowning in a lake near Mission, B.C.

Shaun Nugent died unexpectedly on July 29 at the age of 43, leaving behind a wife and three children.

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Nugent’s best friends Leanne and Doug Burns told Global News Monday they still can’t believe the local contractor is gone.

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“He was an outstanding father, he loved his wife, he loved his kids, he was so good with other kids,” Leanne said. “He’ll be so missed. We’re going to feel a very big void.”

Before Nugent died, he had taken his family to Hayward Lake north of Mission for a day at the beach on July 27, the Burns said.

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As the family was arriving, they saw a woman who had drifted far from shore on an inflatable toy.

“She was about a football field away, and there’s a current in the lake and I guess she had gotten separated from her floaty and couldn’t make it back to shore,” said Leanne, who wasn’t at the lake with the Nugents and only heard about the rescue afterwards.

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“[The woman’s] friend on the shore was calling for help, and before his wife could even turn around, Shaun was already in the water and swimming out as fast as he could,” she said.

The Burns said the woman was exhausted from treading water, leaving Nugent to drag her back to shore. Nugent’s wife then met the pair and helped bring the woman out of the water.

“He was feeling pretty hurting; he was in pain because it was such a long swim,” Leanne said. “But he saved her, she was OK.”

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No ambulance was called to the scene, and Nugent never went to hospital after the rescue, Leanne said.

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The Burns, who live across the street from the Nugents, said he was complaining of exhaustion when he “regaled” his friends with the tale later that afternoon.

The next day, the couple said Nugent still appeared to be feeling the effects of the rescue.

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“He had a tight chest, he was exhausted,” Doug said. “Just drained. He just felt like all his muscles were exhausted by the swim.”

The day after, on July 29, Nugent was seen in the morning driving his wife to work. But he didn’t show up that afternoon to pick her up, and wasn’t responding to her text messages or calls.

“She knew something must have been wrong,” Leanne said.

“[Nugent’s wife and father-in-law] came into the bedroom and he was in bed,” she continued. “She went to roll him, and he was not responsive.”
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Nugent was declared dead shortly after the ambulance arrived, with paramedics saying resuscitation was “futile.”

The family is still waiting for autopsy results to determine the cause of death. The BC Coroners Service wouldn’t speculate on what could have happened.

But Leanne said emergency workers at the scene raised the possibility that Nugent died from what’s known as “secondary drowning.”

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The phenomenon, which has mostly sparked concern among parents of young children, occurs when a small amount of water ends up in the lungs and limits oxygen flow into the body. It can often take days before the effects are felt.

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“It could have also been an overexertion physically, possibly in his heart. We just don’t know,” Leanne said.

“They said he was nice and peaceful in his bed, nothing knocked over, so there wasn’t a struggle,” Doug said. “He went peacefully, whatever it was.”

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Nugent was also well-known in the community as a coach for Langley Minor Football overseeing the Cowboys team.

On Sunday, the league posted a tribute to Nugent on their Facebook page.

“We will miss his passion, no BS (for lack of better wording, but absolutely fitting) attitude, and love for this organization on and off the field,” the tribute reads.

“His infectious laugh, and his “COWBOYS!!!!” roar will leave our home a little quieter for the time being.”

Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe and other fundraising initiatives to help the Nugent family financially.

The Burns said the incident has been felt up and down their street, regardless of age.

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“It’s very cold in the neighbourhood,” Leanne said through tears. “Everybody is in just complete shock. He was just one of those people who shouldn’t have been taken early.”

— With files from Julia Foy

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