Carter Atkinson would like to personally thank the man who saved him from drowning during a recent swimming trip to Vancouver Island.
“Thank you for my life,” the seven-year-old South Surrey boy said he would say, if he gets a chance to speak to his rescuer.
But neither he nor his parents know how to find the young man who dragged him from the rapids at Top Bridge Regional Park near Parksville on Aug. 11.
Carter was playing in shallow water up to his knees with his older brother, Will, when he suddenly slipped and fell into deeper fast-moving water.
The current dragged him under.
“The water was pushing me into the rock, so I couldn’t get out,” Carter recalled.
“I couldn’t breathe.”
As he struggled to get his head out of the water, Carter could hear his mother’s voice yelling for help.
Jennifer Atkinson was trying to get to Carter, but the current that was keeping him underwater was pushing her away.
“He slipped on the rocks and sort of fell backwards and got trapped in a bit of a hollow under the water,” she said. “He went under and stayed under. The force of the water kept pushing him down.
“I jumped in and tried to save him, but the rapids were too fast and strong and I kept getting pushed downstream.
“I was screaming and screaming,” she said.
A group of young men about “30 or 40 feet away” came to his aid.
Carter was just below the surface of the water when he felt two arms grab him around the waist and haul him to safety. Sputtering and coughing, he had swallowed a lot of water.
Without the young men’s actions, Jennifer Atkinson is convinced her son wouldn’t be here.
Carter is grateful to the man who pulled him out, and also grateful to a lady who helped him calm down afterwards by showing him how to give himself a “butterfly hug.”
His mother doesn’t know who the rescuers are, but she wants them to know she will always be thankful.
Carter celebrates his eighth birthday Thursday. Asked about his birthday plans, Carter cracked a joke.
“I hope I don’t drown.”
His mother says Carter, initially traumatized by his near-drowning, appears to have made a full recovery.
“There’s no huge fear of water,” she says.
His family is planning a trip to the Cultus Lake waterslides to mark the occasion.
– files from Neil Horner