Rescuers make last-minute save after boaters capsize in frigid Columbia
Revelstoke residents Colin Titsworth and Brett Renaud are being credited with saving two lives on June 15 after rescuing two capsized canoeists who were slipping into shock and hypothermia while clinging to a floating log in the middle of the Columbia River.
The incident happened on June 15 at around 8:30 p.m.
Revelstoke resident Cameron Vansolkema and his stepson Cody Thomson, 16, were camping at Blanket Creek Provincial Park south of Revelstoke.
They canoed across the flooded Columbia River earlier in the day to do some fishing on the eastern shore.
While on their way back across the river that evening, the pair slipped up for a brief moment. "We both looked over one side and it just flipped," said Thomson. "We tried flipping [the canoe] back over, but all the water went into it and it started to sink, so we started swimming."
Thomson said they swam for about 20 minutes towards the western shore. They soon realized just how bad their predicament was. "I looked back and it was like we never even moved," Thompson said. The Columbia is currently flooded and very wide at Blanket Creek.
Thomson said that's when they started cramping up and feeling the effects of the extreme cold.
The pair managed to find a log that was floating in the middle of the river and grabbed on. It was just in time. "I went into shock and got hypothermia," Thomson said. "We started calling for help."
Thomson estimates they clung to the log for about five minutes and were in the water for about 30 minutes. "I was really freaked out," he said.
Luckily for Vansolkema and Thomson, camper Brett Renaud and Blanket Creek park manager Colin Titsworth heard their screams. They grabbed a canoe and forged towards the fading pair.
Thomson says without their rescue efforts, they wouldn't be alive. "They picked me up ... I laid down [in the canoe.] I actually don't remember that because I actually fell asleep," Thomson said of his experience slipping into shock.
The pair took Thomson to shore and went back out for his stepfather, rescuing him as well.
In the meantime, authorities in Revelstoke had been notified. RCMP, Revelstoke Search & Rescue and the BCAS were dispatched. They treated the pair for hypothermia. Both men are doing fine now.
The Revelstoke RCMP are praising the efforts of Titsworth and Renaud. "The actions of Colin and Brett are extraordinary and both should be commended for their quick thinking," said RCMP Staff-Sgt. Jacquie Olsen in a statement.
Thomson wanted to come spend some time at home following the incident, but Renaud and Vansolkema have stayed on camping at Blanket Creek – and couldn't be reached immediately today.
Thomson would like to get in touch with Titsworth to thank him personally. "I haven't seen Colin and he saved me," Thomson said. "If he wouldn't have come out I don't think I would have made it."
What lesson does he have to share about the incident? "Make sure you have a life jacket because it does save your life," Thomson said. Without it, "I wouldn't be here for sure, no."