Brad Pilon remembers hearing the cries for help and the sight of an eight-year-old’s head bobbing in and out of the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon.
He and his wife, Ashley Pilon, were in the middle of a running challenge, attempting to cover four miles every four hours over 48 hours. Around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, they noticed a child running to find someone.
“I looked in the water, and that’s when I saw the other child screaming for help,” Brad said in an interview.
The boy and his cousin had been on the riverbank on the edge of Victoria Park when he slipped, fell in and was carried away by the current.
Brad ran down the riverbank, calling for the boy to swing his arms and kick his feet. As the child dipped below the surface, the boy called out that he wasn’t able to swim.
Brad doesn’t remember his thoughts from the moment, but without hesitation, he was in the water, swimming six to seven meters out into the river.
“It was kind of overwhelming, it all happened so fast,” he said. “I’m just glad that it turned out the way it did.”
He brought the boy back to the riverbank, where Ashley, their two friends and a bystander were waiting. They helped him into some dry clothes and waited for first responders.
The boy was showing signs and symptoms of hypothermia, but ended up being okay.
The event hits close to home for the Pilons because they have a daughter the same age.
While the rescue was a team effort, Ashley credits her husband’s actions the most — something she says Brad would have done for anyone of any age.
“Initially I thought he was crazy getting into that water, but it doesn’t surprise me that he did it,” she said.
“That’s the type of person he is.”
The couple finished their run following the rescue. They hope the event serves as a reminder of the inherent dangers of the river.
There is no doubt Brad’s quick-thinking saved the boy’s life, according to Troy Davies, director of public affairs for Medavie Health Services West.
“This was a tragedy, for sure, if Brad wouldn’t have acted,” Davies said.
After viewing the video Ashley took of the incident, paramedics decided Brad would receive an award at the annual Badge, Shield and Star event this September.
Brad’s brother has been a paramedic with the service for more than 25 years.