A Calgary golfer rushed to save a seven-year-old boy who was struggling to stay afloat in the Sheep River south of the city on Friday.
Reef Caulder was playing in a tournament at the River’s Edge Golf Club in Okotoks late Friday afternoon when he heard screams coming from the river that runs along the course.
“All I could see was somebody in the water, easily a thousand yards from the nearest person, and they were just stumbling and going under the water and coming back up and kind of flailing. The tube that they were on was actually 40 feet down the river from where they were,” Caulder recalled.
Realizing that he was the closest person to the boy, Caulder knew he had to get to down to the Sheep River. But first, the 36-year-old had to get down the steep cliff. After that, Caulder struggled through waist-deep and chilly, rushing water.
“I definitely lost my footing a few times and dunked in a little bit,” Caulder said.
Caulder managed to reach the boy who was clinging to a rock and trying to keep his head above water.
“I lifted him up took and took him to shore, and once we got to shore, he instantly started throwing up. Obviously, there was a significant amount of water in his system,” Caulder said.
“I could definitely tell he was in shock and freezing, so I took a sweater I had further up by the sandbar and wrapped it around him and we waited until we could receive some help.”
River’s Edge Golf Club manager Michael Engelhardt said the Sheep River can be a dangerous place this time of year with the runoff and rain but Caulder’s actions don’t come as a shock.
“Just a total selfless act. Absolutely incredible,” Engelhardt said. “I’ve known Reef for a couple of years now and this type of thing doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. To be honest with you, I’ve never not seen a smile on his face.”
RCMP said the boy went into the Sheep River by the Riverbend Campground. That’s where a female relative went into the river to try to help. Both the boy and the woman, who are from Langdon, were taken to hospital where they were treated and released. Three first responders also entered the water by the campground.
As for Caulder, he said he didn’t even feel the cold until it was all over and the boy was in the ambulance.
“In all honesty, at that point, there was no thought process. I didn’t really think of my safety. Now that I look at it, I could’ve got severely hurt myself going down there. I may not have been able to help. But at the time I just figured I was the closest person to him and I was the easiest chance he had of getting help,” Caulder said.
Okotoks RCMP said the Sheep River is fast-moving and cold, and are advising the public to stay away from the riverbank for the time being.