What began as an afternoon paddleboarding down the Courtenay River turned into a dramatic rescue for Lee Murray on Tuesday afternoon, when he came to the aid of a woman tubing near Lewis Park.
The Comox Valley resident was on the river with his kids as he saw a woman whose tube flipped over and she began to drift backwards.
“At that point, there was no panic. All of a sudden, she went down under the water, and her friend started to scream that she couldn’t swim, so I dove in and swam where she was and dove down to her,” explained Murray.
He said the woman, 60, had a bag with a piece of rope, between six to eight feet long attached to her hip that had anchored itself onto some rocks under the water.
“She was being pulled under and the rope had wrapped around her neck twice, so she was being asphyxiated,” he added.
Murray grabbed the woman’s ankle, dislodged the bag and pulled her on her back and floated about 200 yards down the river to the beach area, where emergency personnel were called.
“(She was) pretty distressed. She had laboured breathing … she was not a very good colour,” he noted. “She was conscious but unresponsive.”
The woman was transported to St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox then airlifted to Victoria General Hospital due to the seriousness of her condition, confirm Comox Valley RCMP.
Police added she is in stable condition and staff are hopeful for a positive recovery.
Murray said the best piece of advice he can offer others is to wear a lifejacket when planning water activities.
“Rivers are funny things — the water is always moving — it’s not like a lake or the ocean. It’s a different animal, and anything can happen at any time.”