A Nanaimo father is praising the brave actions of strangers who jumped in to help him save his 11-year-old son from drowning in the Taylor River west of Port Alberni.
The child was towed underwater into a powerful waterfall, for as long as five agonizing minutes, and Rodney Hunealt says he couldn’t have saved him without the strangers he never even got to say thank you to.
Rodney Hunealt will never forget the faces of the men who helped save his drowning son, though he never got their names.
“Any one of them could have died in that situation right,” says the Nanaimo father of two. “Yeah just eternally grateful for what they did for our son.”
They are the heroes of the story that starts at Taylor River along Highway 4 last Friday afternoon.
The father and son were returning from camping in Ucluelet and like the thousands drawn to this picturesque spot, stopped for a swim on that sweltering day when temperatures soared up to 35 degrees. But when 11-year-old Lucas slipped out of his dad’s sight on the slow moving river, and Rodney went to investigate around this bend he found a scene straight out of a parents nightmare.
His son trapped underwater over a waterfall, as a stranger desperately held his arm from going all in.
“He had my son’s hand above the waterfall just holding on to his hand while he was submerged into the water,” says Rodney Hunealt.
The two men, soon joined by a third, then a fourth battled against a current that Hunealt says felt like pulling a car, when an agonizing five minutes of Lucas underwater, their efforts worked.
“I was thinking we may not get him out of here and then this surreal thing happened I just pulled him a different direction he popped out. ”
Lucas Hunealt was flown to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where his worried parents waited for him to come to, and told him the story of how strangers that included a respiratory therapist, two doctors and his dad pulled him back to life.
“And like the right people were there that day at the right time and thank-you,” says Lucas Hunealt.
“I have a new faith in people who will go in and do the human thing and help without asking a question,” says Rodney Hunealt.
They hope somehow this thank-you gets back to those heroes who know who they are and who in a chance meeting between strangers on a summer day changed the course of this family’s life forever.