Maks Zalizniak is still shaken by how quickly a day at the beach nearly turned into tragedy for a man he helped rescue from drowning in a B.C. lake last Friday.
The 34-year-old Red Deer pipefitter was taking a last swim abut 6:30 p.m. last Friday in Eleanor Lake in a remote area about 230 km north of Kamloops when people on shore started frantically waving at him. He had gone to the lake with co-workers working on the Trans Mountain Pipeline to cool off from plus-40 C heat.
“When I was coming back to the shore I saw people waving trying to get my attention. Then they started to point in the water and I realized there was someone in the water.
“So I started swimming as fast as I could to that point.
“I dove in the first time and I couldn’t see anything, he said by phone on Tuesday. “I dove in a second time and I couldn’t believe my life. An unconscious man was facing down underwater.
“It was like in the movies.”
Zalizniak, who immigrated from Ukraine in 2011 and has lived in Red Deer since 2015, recalls grabbing the man by his shoulders and pulling him to the surface. The man was about two metres down but slowly sinking deeper into the lake.
Others came to help, including his friend Cody Koskimaki, and they pulled the man to shore.
“We were able to pull him out of the water really fast. We got the guy on the shore and Cody started screaming about CPR, who can perform CPR.”
A man and a woman responded and started performing the life-saving technique on the still-unconscious man.
“It looks like they were doing good work. After a couple of cycles the guy started breathing again.
“For the first time, I was so scared for somebody’s life. I couldn’t believe it.”
Zalizniak is still struck by how quickly a day at the beach turned to near-tragedy — and with so little warning.
“I was swimming in that area and I didn’t see any signs, like when people are drowning they are kind of screaming for help or waving their hands. I didn’t see any signs of that.”
At Eleanor Lake, the bottom drops off sharply and it is easy to be walking along and suddenly find yourself in water above your head.
He wonders if the man could not swim and did not see that the lake, which can be a bit murky, was about to get much deeper.
As he reflects on it now, he is glad he and the others were there to help.
“It was quite an experience and it was scary.
“I’m thankful to God that he gave us the opportunity that we probably did everything right and we could save that guy. I’m really glad we got him back and he started breathing again.”
Zalizniak said he is determined to refresh the CPR training he got as part of a first aid course after seeing how critical it was in saving a life.
“What if there was nobody there who could perform CPR?”