A 22-year-old man from India drowned at Cultus Lake on Saturday.
And while the effort wasn’t enough in the end, a 49-year-old Good Samaritan did what he could to try and save the life of Manpreet Singh, a young international student.
Faamanu (Nu) Lapa of Abbotsford was on the shore of Entrance Bay celebrating his nephew’s birthday on July 25 when he heard and saw the commotion in the water. He grabbed his goggles and ran over to the crowd.
Lapa, who used to be a spearfisher in his native Samoa, said he’s “very comfortable” in water.
Friends of Singh pointed out where the 22-year-old went under and Lapa immediately dove in.
There were people on floaties looking down into the water searching, but Lapa knew since the lake is so dark the only way to find Singh was to go under the surface.
He searched for about 20 minutes with no success.
It was then that he saw RCMP and firefighters had arrived, so he swam back to shore figuring they would be diving in.
When he realized the emergency personnel were not going into the water, Lapa headed back into the lake to search a different area. They yelled at him to stop, but he ignored them.
“That’s when I dove again and found him, but it was too late,” he said.
He figured he swam down about 30 feet when he spotted Singh’s orange shorts. The young man was caught in weeds at the bottom of the lake.
Lapa untangled Singh and brought his limp body to the surface, holding onto him tightly.
“I didn’t want to let him go back down.”
He recalled shouting that he found him when he broke the surface.
Singh was located about 10 feet from where the bottom of the lake suddenly drops off.
Lapa carried Singh’s body to the shore as police and firefighters stepped into the water and helped.
“I wish I was in the right spot when I was looking for him in the beginning,” he recalled.
The Cultus Lake Fire Department was dispatched around 3:15 p.m. on July 25 to Entrance Bay in the provincial park after the reports came in of a man who fell into the water.
But Lapa said Singh did not fall into the water as he wasn’t near the dock nor was he on a boat. He remembers seeing the young man playing around with his friends on the shore before going into the water.
Chilliwack RCMP later confirmed he was found under the water by a Good Samaritan and brought to shore, but he was unable to be revived.
“My heart and prayers for the family and friends,” Lapa said.
Various social media posts and an online South Asian news magazine Desibuzz Canada reported that the drowning victim was Manpreet Singh, who was an international student attending Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, and was from a village in Gurdaspur, Punjab.
“I can confirm an adult drowned at Entrance Bay at Cultus Lake today,” said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail on Saturday. “There’s no evidence of criminality and the RCMP and BC Coroners Service are investigating.”
This is the second Indian national to drown in the area in recent weeks. On May 11, another 22-year-old from India was with friends at a popular cliff diving as Teskey Rock near Vedder Bridge on the Chilliwack River.
A fundraiser has been set up to help send Singh’s body back home to India.
Family member, Jagpal Singh, started a GoFundMe account on Sunday to raise money to bring Manpreet’s body home and to help the family. Within three days more than $37,000 had been raised. The fundraiser goal was set at $35,000.
According to the GoFundMe page, Manpreet has family in Surrey and Ottawa as well as India.
“Even a little from you can help. Please donate even a little if you can,” Jagpal wrote.
To donate, go to the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/f/sending-brothers-body-to-india.
The BC Coroner Service and RCMP continue to investigate the July 25 drowning incident.
– with files from Paul Henderson and Eric Welsh