A hiking trip for a group of friends in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park this past weekend turned into a dramatic rescue, and resulted in an off-duty police officer being hailed as a hero.
Bruce Lake, his wife Bernadette, and friends were camping and exploring the Laverty Falls and Moosehorn Trail area Saturday when they came across a group of swimmers.
It appeared one of the swimmers was in trouble, while holding onto a rock.
“She was kind of stuck between these two little waterfalls,” Lake recalled.
Initially, the group said they were fine, but Lake’s friend Sean Creary noticed the young woman in the water was showing signs of exhaustion.
“I did watch her at one point make an attempt to get back to shore again to her friend, and she basically let go of the rock that she was holding onto and got sucked underneath,” said Lake.
“She immediately went underneath and then come back up again right near the rock and then grabbed the rock and held on. So she was obviously a little scared.”
Lake said he then realized the “gravity of the situation” but wasn’t sure how they could help because they couldn’t quite reach her.
His friend, Dave Brosha, describes how they watched the swimmer disappear in the water a second time.
“It was like a scene out of a bad movie. She went underneath the water and we expected her head to pop up any second and to emerge over towards where we were,” said Brosha.
- Global Calgary’s Leslie Horton shuts down email body-shamer on live TV
- How to know if you have salmonella as death toll rises from cantaloupe outbreak
- Ontario stay-at-home dad overwhelmed by ‘compassionate’ response to financial struggles
- Alberta finance minister says he has not ‘flip-flopped’ on proposed pension change
“But she didn’t. She just disappeared.”
Brosha said they all waited an agonizing five seconds or so, but the swimmer never reemerged.
“And then all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see somebody jump in after her. And it’s my friend Bruce Lake,” he said.
Lake is a 25-year member of the Truro Police Force in Nova Scotia, where he’s currently an inspector. He describes himself as a “mediocre” swimmer.
“I don’t describe myself as a strong swimmer, but I am comfortable in the water,” said Lake.
“But in (those) circumstances, it didn’t come into play, in a sense. I felt that somebody is really in trouble and I’m going to try and help. And I realize that that’s a big decision.”
Back on shore, Brosha said the people waiting feared the worse when nobody resurfaced for a few seconds.
“Both these people, we couldn’t see them. The water had too much fury,” said Brosha.
Lake said he realized the water was quite deep once he jumped in, and had no idea where the swimmer was. He spread out his arms and brushed against her further down in the water.
“I reached her arm and I just pulled her in and I hugged her and then swam for the surface,” he said.
“So I pushed her toward the shore. Her friend got her arm and then I lost touch with her … I was getting sucked back into the exact same spot and only for her to turn around, and she reached her arm and I actually grabbed her arm and we got pulled in together.”
His wife Bernadette, who had yelled out for her husband to jump in, looks back at the moment and admits it was frightening.
“I think afterwards you start replaying it in your head and that’s when the worry sets in: the what ifs. But in that moment, you just don’t have time to process emotions at that point. It’s just you do and you go,” she said.
Lake said he knows fully well that it “could have ended a lot worse” but is thankful everyone was safe. He and his friends stayed with the young woman for a while to check on her, and after words of gratitude, the two groups parted.
Brosha, who is a Prince Edward Island-based photographer, penned a tribute to Lake on Facebook to bring his heroism to light.
After all, he said, Lake deserves the recognition.
“Bruce is just this quiet, low key, humble guy and he wasn’t looking for any attention,” he said.
“I remember I pulled him aside at the campsite and said, ‘Bruce, I would like to share your story of what happened.’ And (he was) almost in disbelief that anyone would want to even hear about this or read about this. But I thought it was important.”
Brosha also credits their friend Sean for being observant enough to notice the swimmer was in trouble, and hopes their tale brings attention to the “forces of nature.”
“This place that they’re at is a popular swimming hole. It’s kind of a natural formation. And most years I’m sure it’s perfectly safe and wonderful,” he said.
“But this particular year, with the heavy rainfalls, especially the night before, it transformed itself into something quite dangerous.”