‘I was dead’: Saanich man thanks rescuers after near-drowning on Cowichan River

'I was dead': Saanich man thanks rescuers after near-drowning on Cowichan River

WATCH: Derreck Bruneau had no pulse and was blue after several minutes trapped underwater on the Cowichan River on Canada Day. April Lawrence has his story.

Derreck Bruneau is a fun-loving guy who is so full of life, it’s hard to believe less than two weeks ago he was dead.

“I was dead I was dead, I saw myself dead, I was floating down the river dead,” Bruneau said.

Bruneau and his friend Travis Thompson were floating the Cowichan River on Canada Day. Bruneau had never done it before, and was having a blast until he hit a log below Skutz Falls, which flipped him and forced him under the water.

“I was just trying to kick off the log I was pinned under, I was just clawing for my life, that’s all I remember, just clawing for my life and trying to survive,” Bruneau said.

A group on the beach noticed a hand sticking out of the water, and ran to help, but they couldn’t dislodge him.

CHEK News spoke with them a few days after the incident.

“He was already blue and purple and we felt for vitals. We didn’t feel a pulse or anything like that,”  Charlie Appleford said on July 5.

Travis Thompson was ahead of his friend and only knew something was wrong when he heard the group yelling. He then ran back to help.

“All I could see was his head under water and three guys on this log trying to pull his body out, right then I knew he was dead,” Thompson said.

Several minutes went by before they got Bruneau free and rushed him to shore where they performed CPR.

“Started beating water out of him cause he was just full of water, face all pale,” Thompson said.

A huge breath of air from Thompson finally did it ? Bruneau came to, vomiting.

His rescuers couldn’t believe his first words.

“The first thing he said was ‘I was dead. I was watching you working on me. I was dead.’ It gave me goosebumps,” Appleford said.

Watching that CHEK News story for the first time Wednesday, Bruneau says it’s true. He vividly remembers watching it all unfold.

He knows just how lucky he is and has heard the word miracle more than once.

But it’s when he’s able to mention and thank his rescuers that the emotion, and gratitude for what happened that day, overwhelms him.

The log that nearly took his life has since been removed but Derreck Bruneau is warning others to be cautious on the river because the vibrant 46-year-old was one heroic group of rescuers away from becoming another tragic statistic.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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