On a chilly December day last year, Rob Clifford was walking his one-year-old son Luca in a stroller along Saanichton Spit, much like he does most days.
When he came upon two women also out for a stroll, they pointed to the water where two men were attempting to swim to shore after their canoe had capsized. In an instant, Clifford made sure the women – who had called 911 – could watch Luca before he stripped down to his underwear, grabbed a nearby log and swam out into frigid waters to reach the men in trouble.
For his heroic actions, the BC Ambulance Service honoured Clifford with a Good Samaritan Award Thursday at a small ceremony outside their Saanichton headquarters.
“I just decided I should try and help out,” said the Saanichton resident, currently working on his PhD through studies with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.
Though the honour was bestowed upon him, Clifford is quick to point out one of the men involved played a significant role in bringing his friend, who is unable to swim, as far as he could to shore, saying he deserves a lot of respect for his efforts as well.
“I just thought I could help out and make it the rest of the way in,” Clifford recalled. “I couldn’t envision myself just standing there, if something bad happened, I couldn’t just stand and watch.”
Mike McGregor, unit chief for the BC Ambulance Service, who nominated Clifford for the award, is convinced that without his quick action that day, it would have been a much different outcome.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Rob saved this man’s life,” he said. “Rob was calm, cool and collected and did a fantastic job. He put his life on the line, really.”
By the time the men returned to the shore, McGregor and other first responders had arrived. Had he spent just another few minutes in water that cold, McGregor is sure the man Clifford rescued “wouldn’t have been able to hold on.”
”They do this sort of thing all the time,” Clifford said of the BC Ambulance Service. “So to be able to connect and be given this award is an honour.”