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'A true hero': Paddleboarder saves two people from drowning in Thetis Lake

The woman rescued the two, who couldn’t swim and weren’t wearing lifejackets, after their floatie overturned and they ended up in the water

View Royal firefighters are crediting a paddleboarder with saving two people from drowning in Thetis Lake after their floatie overturned Wednesday afternoon.

The two victims, in their late teens or early 20s, could not swim and were not wearing lifejackets, said View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst.

Beachgoers were alerted to trouble by “frantic screams” that someone was drowning, he said.

The fire department was called for a reported drowning, but when crews arrived, they found both people alive, thanks to a paddleboarder, Rylie Matthews, who jumped on her board and paddled 40 metres out to the victims, Hurst said.

“She literally pulled these kids out of the water. The one was underwater, the other one she pulled onto the board. So I mean, a real hero, a true hero. She saved lives today,” Hurst said.

Matthews said she was getting her paddleboard ready at the lake’s boat launch when she heard splashing coming from the middle of the lake. When she looked up, she could see a woman in the lake waving her arms and calling for help.

“I didn’t even really think. I just hopped on my paddleboard and yelled to her like: ‘I’m coming. I’m on my way,’ ” Matthews said.

When she got closer, she could see a man about a foot underwater who was trying to reach the surface but couldn’t.

The woman grabbed on to her paddleboard, and Matthews got on her hands and knees to reach into the water and grabbed the man by his hair, pulling him onto her board. His face was blue and he was unconscious, Matthews said.

By that point, others had paddled to join Matthews and helped bring the two victims to shore, where off-duty paramedics got to work on the man right away, she said.

They rolled him over and he began to spit out water and started coming to, Matthews said.

Matthews said it was a scary experience, and she’s glad she was able to help. “I’m just happy that everyone’s OK,” she said.

The two victims were taken to hospital, because they had inhaled water, Hurst said.

The fire chief called Matthews’ actions “selfless” and said if not for her quick thinking, the incident would have been a double drowning.

This is the first water-related incident at Thetis this year, and Hurst said he hopes it will be the last. He urged those who can’t swim to take the incident as a reminder to wear a lifejacket or stay out of the water.

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