James Milne was canoeing near Goose Spit when he fell into the water Sunday.

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

James Milne knows his voice isn’t as strong as it used to be, but it was still strong enough to save his life Sunday.

Milne, 74, was out for a paddle in his modified canoe (it had a higher seat, which altered the centre of gravity) Sunday near Goose Spit in Comox, when he tried to push off a barnacle-covered buoy and fell into the water.

Although he was wearing a life-jacket, he quickly realized his attempts to swim to safety were not going to work, as he was too far away from shore.

“I was considering the fact that I wasn’t going to be here anymore,” he said softly.

Milne started yelling – but he said years of coaching high school rugby has significantly diminished the strength of his voice.

Fortunately for Milne, his voice carried far enough for someone onshore to hear, and subsequently spot, the danger.

An emergency call for assistance from the Canadian Coast Guard was placed and two off-duty paramedics – Ryan Thorburn and Bill Coltart – heard the call at the Comox Marina, as Coltart was returning from his charter tour boat.

“We hopped into Bill’s boat and we could see [Milne] swimming in the water and pulled alongside him,” explained Thorburn. “When we pulled him out of the water (it didn’t look good). I could tell he was tired of kicking and he couldn’t stand up. Hypothermia is always worse when swimming.”

Thorburn stripped down and placed his clothes on Milne in an attempt to slowly raise his body temperature.

He estimates by the time they pulled Milne into the boat, he was in the water for about half an hour. Despite talking to first responders and police in not much more then his underwear, Thorburn brushed off a suggestion that he and Coltart performed a heroic act.

“It’s what anyone should do in that situation. We weren’t far away.”

Milne recalls one of the rescuers giving him all of his clothes.

“He was standing in his underwear and they put me over the hot register with a blanket over me. They managed to call the ambulance … when I got to the hospital they had hot transfusions and hot packs under my armpits to bring my temperature up. It was a close call.”

He admitted while he is a risk taker, he knows “what stupid things I did.”

“I’ve done a lot of canoeing and I’ve never had a serious accident before. (The rescuers) were at the right place at the right time … (and I want) to show my appreciation for them. I guess my time wasn’t there yet.”

Just Posted

Pedestrain struck on Quadra Street

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Quadra Street at Hulford… Continue reading

Victoria airport workers rally on Tuesday

Food service workers call for improved working conditions

Police respond after dog left in vehicle at the movies

West Shore RCMP determined the animal was not in distress

BC Nurses Union calls for decriminalization of opioids

BCNU president wants the federal government to do more to reduce preventable deaths

Saanich grants public hearing to senior housing proposal

Five-storey rental apartment would add 39 units near Cuthbert Holmes Park

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Island man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Fraser Valley music festival

James Allen Redden, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty of three charges

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Former Vike returns to lead women’s rowing program

Williams rowed for UVic, Oxford and Canada

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

Most Read