Paul Lorieau, 70, was back on the water on Sunday, after a close encounter when he fell into frigid Kinbasket Lake, south of Valemount from his boat the day before.
Lorieau lives in Edmonton and was the Canadian anthem singer for the Edmonton Oilers for 30 years. Now retired, for the past 10 years Lorieau has spent two months each summer at Kinbasket Lake, just south of Valemount, BC. Nothing like this has ever happened to him before.
The day was hot and sunny, but as usual big gusts of wind came up the Kinbasket Reservoir, blowing across the marina. Melting icebergs clung to the mountains above, with melting ice trinkling down the rockface and into the lake water.
After Lorieau had untied his boat to load it onto his trailer, a gust of wind pushed it away from the dock. He tried to jump onto it, wearing Crocs sandals, but the side of the boat bent down under his weight and he bounced off into the water. He latched onto the side of the boat and tried to get back in. Nobody saw him fall.
It was just after marina custodian Kerri-Lynn Fontaine and husband Marc Lohse had finished their morning coffee in the cook shack when they decided to offer Lorieau assistance putting his boat on the trailer, even though he had already turned down their help.
As they approached the marina, “the boat was doing loop-dee-loos and we couldn’t see him,” Lohse said.
The wind was blowing north and Lorieau’s 17-foot Lund had already drifted 100 yards down the lake.
The water – between 12 and 14 degrees – lapped up against Lorieau and his boat, as his rescuers finally spotted him and heard his yells – the voice that had carried the Canadian anthem for so many years.
Lohse and fellow camper Len Chisholm jumped in a boat and motored to the rescue.
They used Nylon dock line to help pull him out – it wasn’t easy.
“When they were trying to fish me out of the water, I kept going up and down,” Lorieau says.
He had been in the water “long enough that he started changing colours,” Lohse said.
He didn’t have a life jacket on. He had been in the water at least 20 minutes, though Lorieau said he couldn’t remember how long he had been in. He told his rescuers he thought the water was warm, despite its frigid temperature.
“They saved my life,” Lorieau said.
Once pulled from the water, Lorieau couldn’t stand up by himself, and sat by the fire for several hours while attendants treated him for hypothermia. There is no cell reception at the marina, except at the cook shack.
Until recently, no one had first aid certification at the marina. Fontaine and Lohse have their own first aid kit and certification.
“We’re setting a different standard,” Fontaine says.
After the rescue, they managed to retrieve several hundred dollars that had flown out of his pocket, his wallet and his shoes, but a wad of $900 is still missing.
“As long as I came out of it, it’s Ok,” Lorieau said.
They also retrieved Lorieau’s felt cowboy hat, which has a belt made of bottle caps made by his friend Bob Mackenzie, a Valemount local who passed away this year.
While Lorieau didn’t win the Marina Association’s mini derby on Sunday, he says he’ll be back in the running at the major Valemount Fishing Derby Sept. 1st.