Drowning man saved by friends, onlookers

A 34-year-old Lac La Croix man nearly drowned Saturday at the Seven Oaks area of Pither’s Point Park, but quick action from some friends and bystanders saved his life.
Brian Godin and Aaron Jourdain, both 22, had decided to go down to the point on Saturday morning to play guitar. They chose a spot by the Lookout Tower, and noticed a group of five men over by the Hallett.
“The people came and sat with us [as they played guitar],” Jourdain said Tuesday. “They were talking for a while.”
Both Godin and Jourdain said they knew one of the five men, but had never met the other four.
After a while, one of the men decided to go for a swim and entered the river near the tower. “He was okay for a while. He wasn’t going too close to the current,” Jourdain noted.
The group watched him swim for a while, then noticed his movements had changed.
“You could tell he was swimming, but not moving anywhere. Then he starts moving with the current,” Jourdain recalled.
He said the 34-year-old started drifting towards the small island located just east of the tower. At first, the group on shore were unsure if the man was in trouble or just joking around.
“He starts saying ‘Help, help,’ and giggling about it,” Jourdain said. But as he drifted further towards the island, his tone grew more desperate.
“We told him to swim to shore. We were asking, ‘Is he serious?” he continued. “When he got to the little island, that’s where he went under.
“I’m standing there thinking, ‘This isn’t happening.’ I was in shock, pretty much,” Jourdain noted.
One of the friends of the drowning man was the first to jump in the water, Godin said. Another dialed 9-1-1 on his cell phone.
“I found a log in the weeds and pushed the log out to them,” Godin explained. “I swam out and pulled the guy up on the log and held his head above water.”
With the help of the men on land, the group was able to pull the victim out of the water and onto the shore.
“He wasn’t breathing at all,” said Godin, who then began performing CPR.
“I took swimming lessons when I was eight and I remembered,” he said, surprised at himself.
Each time Godin positioned the man on his side and thumped his back, water came out of his mouth.
“So much water would come out. I was amazed at how much water came out,” Jourdain remarked. “He [Godin] would turn him on his side and shout, ‘Come on, buddy. Breathe!’”
“By the time the ambulance got there, he was breathing on his own a little bit,” Godin said, adding he was immensely relieved.
Overall, he estimated the man spent about five minutes underwater. He performed CPR for about a minute.
The man was taken to La Verendrye Hospital for treatment. Godin visited him there Monday and said he appeared to be doing very well.
The man was released from hospital Tuesday.
Fort Frances OPP Cst. Caroline Spencer said this incident was an example of why people should never swim near the rail bridge at Pither’s Point, noting the undercurrents there are strong and swimmers are quickly swept under.
(Fort Frances Times)