A group of Langley friends out for a boat ride are being hailed as heroes for saving two women from drowning in the swollen Fraser River on Tuesday evening.
The women, who are both in their 20s, decided to go for a swim near the Port Haney Wharf in Maple Ridge, which has been closed to the public for weeks because of high and dangerous river levels.
Emergency services got a call to rescue the women around 9:20 p.m., after they drifted almost 30 feet from the bank, while clinging to a log.
“We were on our way back from dinner at the Gillnetter Pub when we saw a lot of emergency vehicles at the shore,” said Langley resident Dominique Elstak, 24, who was in the boat with five of her friends. Her boyfriend Kirk Miller owns the boat and was driving that evening.
“I said to Kirk we should go closer and take a look at what was going on. That’s when we saw the two girls in the water holding onto a long log,” said Elstak.
Miller quickly turned the boat towards the women and the group of friends sprung into action, throwing the two life jackets and putting the ladder down on the back of the boat to bring them in.
“We got them in the boat and wrapped them up in towels and gave them our sweaters,” said Elstak. Miller brought the women to emergency responders who were waiting onshore at the wharf.
“They were cold but seemed to be OK,” said Elstak. The Langley couple regularly go boating on the Fraser with friends and have been careful with the high waters. The current was so strong a week ago, their motor struggled to keep up and they turned back to shore.
Before the Langley boating group arrived on Tuesday night, a Ridge Meadows RCMP officer jumped into the river to try to rescue the women but had to swim back out as the current started pulling him downstream..
Maple Ridge fire chief Dane Spence said firefighters were getting ready to rescue the pair, when a boat arrived to help.
The boat left before emergency service crews could find out his identity.
“This unknown boater is truly a hero in this incident,” said Sgt. Dale Somerville.
“According to our police officers, the women were in serious danger and could have easily drowned if not for the actions of this citizen. We would like to find out who he is and thank him for his quick thinking.”
Elsak said she had read on the Maple Ridge News website that they were looking to thank her boyfriend.
“I think that’s pretty cool,” she said. Miller was at work on Thursday morning but was intending to get in touch with Ridge Meadows RCMP that day.
“It really is lucky the girls found a log to hold onto until we got there because if not, they would have been swept down the river,” said Elsak.
Police aren’t saying whether the women were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
— Files from Maple Ridge News