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

Pride Society of the Comox Valley set to kick off week-long celebration

The organization is celebrating Pride Week with a variety of events to bring the community together.

Work continues on Courtenay’s 4th Street Improvement Project

4th street will be closed to traffic between Duncan and Cliffe Avenue

Inside the music: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Big Read: VIMF in the Comox Valley exemplifies the spirit of an Island summer music festival

Cannabis facility planned in Courtenay

Design up to 100,000 square feet

Major private donation to Kus-kus-sum project

Frank and Bobbi Denton, longtime residents of the Comox Valley, have donated… Continue reading

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Bob Castle’s Under the Glacier cartoon for July 19, 2018

Bob Castle’s Under the Glacier cartoon for July 19, 2018… Continue reading

Heat wave hits B.C.’s south coast

Temperatures expected to hit the mid-30s in some areas

Man charged in 2006 B.C. murder extradited to Canada from South Korea

28-year-old Jui-Kai Weng was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder

Soaring temperatures, high winds could worsen fires in B.C.’s southern Interior

Environment Canada’s forecast for the next week in the southern Interior does not inspire confidence, with temperatures in the 30s and winds gusting over 40 kilometres per hour.

Iran dismisses Trump’s explosive threat to country’s leader

Trump tweeted late on Sunday that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.

Update: Police probe Toronto shooting that killed 2, injured 12; suspected gunman dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Government sets full-time salary range for Justin Trudeau’s nanny

At its top range, the order works out to a rate of $21.79 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week

Most Read