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Nelson man 'put his life at risk' to save BOB jumper

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
May 19th, 2016

Ryan Labbe was preparing to enjoy some quiet time Friday (May 13) night at Lakeside Park.

The City of Nelson worker had just pulled his vehicle up to the Lakeside Park boat launch when he heard yelling coming from the Big Orange Bridge deck.

Labbe said there was a distraught man on the bridge that was screaming he was going to jump.

What happened next turned Labbe from an innocent bystander to the lead person in a rescue mission that most definitely saved a life.

“I didn’t want this guy to die,” Labbe explained when asked about that eventful night.

“When I realized he survived the fall, and he was begging for help, and panicking, I just knew I had to help.”

Labbe arrived at Lakeside Park at approximately 10 p.m. to hear commotion on the bridge deck.

The man was distraught after receiving some bad news earlier.

Labbe said the man, who was being chased by a friend trying to help, continued his threatening cries, so he began following him to see if he was going to follow through with his threats.

“He jumped halfway between the middle and the beginning of the bridge,” Labbe said.

“I’ve never heard someone jump from so high. It sounded like a ton of bricks hitting the water.”

Labbe called Nelson Police and dispatch said officers were on the way.

“I got out of my car and stripped down to my underwear and got into the water until I had to start swimming when at that point I realized he was still alive so I elected to jump onto the (logs adjacent the Rotary wharf and closer to the base of the bridge) to get a better look,” he explained.

“I told him to swim slowly so I could figure something out.”

Realizing he could put himself in danger by swimming out to the distraught man, Labbe instead stood on the logs and began calling to give the man verbal guidance on where to swim to safety.

“I would have jumped in as a last resort but the water was so cold I didn’t know what state of mind he was in,” Labbe said.

“I didn’t want both of us to drown because some people tend to panic in that scenario so both people end up drowning.”

“I told him “I’m not going to let you die” but you need to swim towards me,” Labbe added.

The average temperature of Kootenay Lake in August during the Nelson Cyswogn’Fun Triathlon varies between 14°-18°C. That temperature is much colder, at around 4°C, during spring runoff.

Thanks to the coaching, the man managed to swim to the logs, where Labbe eventually pulled him out of the water.

“We tried to head back on the logs but we both fell back into the water,” said Labbe.

“I managed to drag us both back onto the logs and we just inched our way back towards the beach until it was shallow enough for me to walk in the water and drag him to meet the police and paramedics on shore,” he said.

Nelson Police Sergeant Dino Falcone said officers were quick to commend Labbe for his act of heroics in saving the man’s life.

“For someone to go into the water like that not knowing what he was going to be facing, it was pretty impressive,” said Falcone.

“He definitely put his life at risk, especially going out onto the unstable log boom.

“He went above and beyond . . ..”

Falcone has asked officers to investigate if there are any awards to recognize Labbe for his act of courage.

This is not the first time Labbe has saved someone from the perils of drowning.

During a holiday in Tofino, Labbe saved a young girl who had been caught in a riptide from drowning. The girl was with a grandparent when she came into distress. Labbe, surfing at the time, swam out on his board to save the girl.

Paramedics attended to the distraught man on shore before taking him to Kootenay Lake Hospital.

Paramedics checked out Labbe, as well, NPD took no chances, contacting Labbe after the local man warmed up at home.

And what does Labbe think of adventurous night at Lakeside Park?

“I’d like to think even if I wasn’t there he would have made . . . but I don’t think he would have,” Labbe said.

“He went under the water a few times but I just kept yelling at him to swim toward my voice and kept yelling and telling him that he can make it.”

“I just followed my instincts to make sure he made it back and I made it back, as well,” Labbe added.

“It’s a dangerous situation when the water is that cold and the person is in that state of mind. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Thankfully, Labbe was there to take control of the situation to make this a happy ending instead of a tragic event.

Categories: General

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