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Man’s drowning averted at Skaha Lake thanks to visitors

Click to play video: 'Visitors from Vancouver rescue man in distress in Skaha Lake' Visitors from Vancouver rescue man in distress in Skaha Lake
A group from visiting Penticton from Vancouver are now being called heroes after putting their lives at risk to rescue a drowning man. As our Taya Fast reports, the incident happened on Friday night in Skaha Lake – Jun 19, 2022

A Father’s Day vacation quickly turned into a lifesaving mission for a family visiting Penticton.

Just before 11 p.m. on Friday, while the group was relaxing at their campsite, they heard cries for help coming from Skaha Lake.

“We were playing the guitar and singing some songs and then it was pretty late,” said Daniel Ferrer, one of the rescuers.

“We thought people were saying help, help, help. And then more people started screaming, yelling. Then we thought something was wrong like something was going on.”

Ferrer then gathered Dr. Henry Reis and certified lifeguard Bruno James, and the trio quickly jumped into action.

Read more: Toddler’s drowning averted at Okanagan Lake, off-duty Mountie credited

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“[Daniel] was pulling the boat from his car saying we need to set up the boat,” said Dr. Reis.

“He was setting up one part of the boat and I did another and in less than 10 minutes we had a boat up and running and went into the water.”

While the trio set out on the lake, Marina Costa called 911 from shore.

“It was really scary to think that this person may have passed or maybe drowned so I’m really glad we called 911 when we did and I’m really glad they made the decision to jump into the water,” said Costa.

According to the rescuers, the group of young people may have tried to swim in the Penticton River Channel, but the fast-moving water pushed them out into Skaha Lake.

“On the other side of the lake, there were people yelling and people with like flashlights and cell phone lights on the border of the lake. So, we started getting closer to the border, thinking that the person might be there,” Ferrer said.

“One of his buddies started yelling, you guys have to go southwest — so we turned about southwest, and we started looking. We kept going and kept going and we went like super deep into the lake.”

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Click to play video: 'Penticton river channel moving faster than normal' Penticton river channel moving faster than normal
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The group says it was very dark outside and the victim was not responding to their voices which made rescue attempts even more challenging.

But several minutes later they spotted the victim with his head barely above water. As they approached him Dr. Reis said he was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

“I told my friends I said you know, as a doctor, have you ever seen any deceased person in front of you? Have you ever seen any CPR? You might see that today so stay calm. I’ll bring the person to the boat and perform CPR. So, whatever happens, please stay calm,” Dr. Reis said.

“To our surprise, this young man was still gasping for air just with his head, barely above the waterline and our friend Bruno jumped in the water, grabbed him, and brought him onto the boat and he didn’t need any CPR. He was breathing barely and very cold.”

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Dr. Daniela Albuquerque said her husband Dr. Reis and the other two men didn’t even think twice before jumping into action.

Read more: Father’s Day tragedy: B.C. man dies trying to rescue daughter from Mill Creek waterfall

“As parents and as doctors like the first thing we said is like we have to jump in the water we have to rescue just him,” said Dr. Daniela Albuquerque.

“The water was really cold and the first thing we thought about it was hypothermia.”

The group now has a message for the community and for the victim.

“I would say we all have the responsibility to look out for our peers for our community. So, if you have any situation like this where you believe you can help even if you’re not 100 per cent sure you can, just make an effort and do what’s best for the community,” Dr. Reis said.

“And we hope that if this gentleman that got rescued sees this that he pays it forward in some opportunity down the road.”

Rescue teams arrived shortly after the group pulled the man out of the lake and the victim was transported to the hospital by awaiting paramedics.

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