Dominic Guzman and his friends swim in the Somass River almost every day.

He never saw the accident at their favourite rope swing coming.

“I went straight to the bottom,” said the Alberni Valley 12-year-old from his Victoria hospital bed.

“And so I hit my head really hard.”

“It was absolutely terrifying,” said Guzman’s aunt Lilly Campbell.

“But we were surrounded by so many people there.”

He broke his neck and vertebrae in four places and is awaiting transfer to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. But he is grateful to be alive after bystanders and first responders quick actions saved him from drowning.

“At high tide, it could have whisked the kid away so he was fortunate,” said Ben Halychuk of the Port Alberni Fire Department.

“There were other people there who held him in place. We got in the water, secured him to a spine board, made sure he was all stabilized.”

“I would call it a miracle,” said Guzman’s grandmother Gloria Fred.

“I’ve never prayed so much in my life because I was so worried.”

It happened last Wednesday as the Valley sweltered in over 30 C heat. Dominic and his friends came down to the river for a swim, but this time would be different than any before.

“And he landed straight on his head,” said Fred.

Guzman was climbing up onto a branch to grab a rope swing when down he fell in just two feet of water.

It happened just metres from where Fred, lost her nephew Adam in a similar accident in 2003

“He jumped off the bridge over there and he didn’t make it, and he landed on the rocks,” said Fred.

“And that was the first thing I thought of when Dominic got hurt that could have been my grandson too.”

“I’m just so grateful and I just want kids to be careful and watch their kids in the river,” said Fred.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Guzman’s family.

The rope swing has since been cut down, and Fred would like to see the same done to the branch.

Skye Ryan