One man has died after he was airlifted to Victoria General Hospital when he and his fishing partner fell out of a boat at Westwood Lake.
Barb McLintock, of the B.C. Coroners Office, confirmed that the hospital reported to her office Wednesday morning that the victim, a man in his early 60s, airlifted to the hospital had died. No other information was available by press time.
Emergency services rushed to Westwood Lake shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday after receiving multiple calls from witnesses on shore and on the water, some of whom rushed to help the men.
Witnesses said one man fell in the water and his partner dove in after him, retrieved him and was struggling to hold him on the surface as two other men rushed in to help. The incapacitated man had been underwater about four minutes before he was brought to the surface.
Kayla Green, 18, and two friends were on a bluff nearby when they heard cries for help.
“We saw the boat and we heard them fall in and a couple moments later we heard them cry out for help,” Green said.
Green called 911 and ran back to the main beach to guide emergency crews to the site.
“We saw a couple other people trying to help out at the shore,” Green said.
The girls did not see the men wearing any life-jackets.
Chris Allison, 24, and a friend were walking around the lake when he saw two men in the water.
“We saw two men in the water and their boat was kind of circling around,” Allison said.
One of the men was trying to grab a line on the boat and trying to keep another man from going under the water. Another man in a paddle boat was already helping hold one man, who was holding the incapacitated man, on the surface.
“I swam out to their boat and turned it around and turned it to meet them,” Allison said. “The guy in the paddle boat had his arms around him, holding him up.”
Allison and the other rescuer were unable to lift the men into the boats.
“They were both fully grown men,” Allison said. “We couldn’t pull them into either boat without tipping. None of us had life-jackets.”
Allison and the other rescuer tried paddling and using the electric motor on the victims’ boat to get to shore, but were unable to make any headway against the combined weight of the men and boats. At that point firefighters were making their way to the scene.
Allison, who appeared shaken by the incident, was treated on shore for a cut to his foot he sustained in the rescue attempt.
Firefighters aboard Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s water rescue Zodiac brought the men to shore where emergency crews performed CPR on one man until an air ambulance arrived on scene.
“A rescue boat with two personnel retrieved both fellows out of the water who were being held out of the water by a couple of other witnesses that were in the lake in fishing boats,” said Greg Norman, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations.
Norman did not know the relationship between the two men and did not know why the men fell in the water. There was conflicting information as to whether their boat had capsized and spilled them into the water.
The second man, in his late 50s to early 60s, was taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital by B.C. Ambulance Service.
The investigation has been turned over to police, but RCMP Const. Martin Kortas said there is nothing criminal in nature about the incident and the investigation would likely be wrapped up Tuesday.
“It’s a very tragic event,” Norman said. “Hopefully people realize that any time you’re out in the water people take all precautions for safety. Life-vests are paramount.”