An afternoon of drinking beside the Gorge Waterway ended with one man rescued from a near-drowning, thanks in no small part to a clutch decision by a 17-year-old Saanichite.
A series of events led to the rescue of a 53-year-old Victoria man who was resuscitated by B.C. Ambulance Services and is reportedly making a recovery in hospital.
Saanich teen Shauna Pearson was enjoying the sunny Wednesday afternoon with her mom Tasha Caissie. The two were sitting on the rocks at the Gorge Narrows, close to the Gorge Bridge, when they heard a commotion.
“At the time we both thought people were swimming in the water,” Caissie said. “[Pearson] started filming a video thinking, ‘Oh wow there’s actually people swimming,’ but we realized within a minute they were in trouble.”
It was about 4:30 p.m., when Gorge’s famous reverse narrows are near their peak and the current flows extremely fast.
At first Caissie wasn’t exactly sure what was happening but saw someone jump into the water to save one person. That’s when she called 911.
Two rescued from Gorge narrows pic.twitter.com/hk31UbMlmt
— Saanich News (@saanichnews) March 15, 2018
“A man jumped in from the dock and a woman came out of nowhere from the forest to save him.” Caissie recalled. “No sooner did I look up from my phone, there’s my daughter. She’s like 90 pounds soaking wet, five-foot-three, and she jumped in the water and pulled [a group of three people hanging onto each other] against the tide to the dock.”
Caissie estimates Pearson was in the water for about seven minutes, pulling the group against the flow of the reverse falls.
Reports of exactly how the 53-year-old man fell in the water are still unconfirmed. Saanich Police noted alcohol was a factor.
Caissie witnessed that the male had disappeared under water and a male rescuer jumped into the water and pulled the drowning man to the surface. A woman also entered the water to help. However, the tides were too strong for the two and they were screaming for help as they were being carried away by the tide.
“It was a chain reaction of rescuing,” Caissie said. “I’d say they were in there for at least 10 minutes.”
Pearson, confident from her skills as a surfer, was able to swim the trio to the dock. All three rescuers were then treated for hypothermia while paramedics worked to revitalize the 53-year-old.
A Facebook post from a member of the man’s family said “he is alive, and not in ICU anymore. Our family is so blessed that you were there when you were there… Thank you from all of his family…You saved his life, thank you.”