I was shocked how many people saw the guy in the canoe go over but didn't react. I guess they thought he was okay; and he was - at first.
The incident happened while I was camped at a provincial park this past July. I was sitting at my site, reading a book, and in the corner of my eye I noticed a canoe overturned. I ran towards the shoreline and yelled out "Are you okay?' The man swimming beside the canoe, who had a PFD on (but was a tad too big for him because it pulled up over his ears) replied "I'm fine...I'm okay...I'll just swim to shore."
His action seemed reasonable. The shore wasn't too far away. But I did notice he wasn't in the best of shape; so I got into my canoe and informed him that I'll come over and perform and canoe-over-canoe rescue. "A what?" he said, now gasping for breath. That's when I knew things were going to go very bad, very soon if I didn't get to him.
It didn't take long to reach him and I began attempting the rescue technique straight away. But the maneuver isn't easy, especially when the person in the water hasn't even heard of it, doesn't want to even attempt it, and is getting weaker and weaker by the minute. He kept refusing help; something that you really can't do much about in such a circumstance. "I can reach bottom soon." he kept telling me. "I'll just swim the canoe into shore." Again, it seemed reasonable because we weren't too far from the beach anyway. But it seemed more reasonable for me to help him.
He was just a few meters away from the beach site when the panic set in. The man began thrashing around in the water but still insisting he needed no help. That's when I grabbed him and simply towed him to shallower water. His wife and daughter came out and chastised him for not letting me help and told me he had a bad heart.
The ordeal with the stubborn drowning man didn't really surprise me. I've seen that a lot. Being stubborn, or embarrassed, and refusing help is common. What horrified me was all the youth at the beach not even thinking of helping us. They continued to play their game of water Frisbee during the entire event. And they saw what was happening. The only time they offered help was when the man was dragged to shore, dizzy and almost unconscious. They seemed to relish in the attention they got by trying to help.
The teenager's reaction confused me. I've seen a lot of teenagers helping with countless moments of need. I'm just puzzled why these kids didn't react that day at the park. Maybe its true what some people are saying about the change in our society…that we are all so interested in our own world that we care little for someone else's problems. Or maybe I simply overreacted and the guy would have easily got to shore before having a heart attack — and cancelling a good a good game of water Frisbee just isn't worth it!