The beach at Pipers Lagoon Park. (News Bulletin file photo)

Swimmers and boaters in Nanaimo rescue girl on inflatable blown out to sea

Winds and current carry out six-year-old girl from beach at Pipers Lagoon Park

A mother in Nanaimo wants to express her gratitude to people who helped rescue her daughter after the child was nearly blown out to sea.

Weiyang Li, who moved to Nanaimo recently from Ontario, was with her six-year-old daughter Abigail Quilter, enjoying an evening at Pipers Lagoon Park on Sunday when an incident unfolded at about 8 p.m. that could have been disastrous were it not for the help of bystanders.

Li said Abigail was on an inflatable shaped like a pizza when the wind carried the girl off shore and out to sea. Li said her daughter wasn’t wearing a life jacket and doesn’t know how to swim.

“My friends couldn’t reach her and then some other people saw that and started swimming too, but the wind, the speed, was faster than the people swimming … at least five people were trying to help,” Li said.

As the girl was being blown out to sea, swimmers attempted to reach her, but couldn’t. A kayaker managed to make it to the girl and got her onto the kayak, and a family in a larger boat responded as well and was able to bring the girl on board and return her to shore.

Dave Lawrence, owner of That ’50s Barber Shop, was one of the beach-goers who initially tried to swim out to help the girl but said the current and wind were pushing her out much too quickly.

“This one guy came out of nowhere and he swam out so quick to her, but then – I know you’ve got to go slow and steady because you’ve got to come back in – I think he made it almost to her and then just turned around and came back,” Lawrence said.

He said that person received assistance from Nanaimo Fire Rescue and B.C. Ambulance paramedics and was taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. Nanaimo RCMP also attended the scene and called for Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, but the incident was over before that unit could respond, said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

Lawrence said several people, including the girl’s grandmother, tried to swim out, but all were forced to abandon their efforts and return to shore. He could hear the girl’s screams and said the scene from her view must have been “terrifying.”

“I’m just so glad that she was OK,” he said. “The thing that motivated me was, you could hear her screaming and everyone came to help her but then everyone turned back … that would be so scary. You see people coming to hopefully help you and then turning back.”

Li said she is grateful to everyone who tried to help her daughter and she had been trying to contact the man who was taken to hospital to thank him personally.

“When my daughter came back I was just crying. There was nothing I could do or say, but now I just want to thank all of them … now I feel really lucky because my daughter is here…” Li said. “I feel so touched in my heart [by] this place. All the people, I don’t know their names … they tried to help. They’re good and kind people.”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo creates water safety education team for city’s beaches



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