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Woman says ‘angelic’ stranger rescued her from drowning
If not for the quick and heroic actions of a young woman she had never met before, Marilyn Swartz says she has “no doubt whatsoever” she would have drowned after being dumped from her air mattress and tangled in a mess of rope and weeds on Osoyoos Lake over the August holiday weekend.
Swartz, who recently moved to Osoyoos after being hired as the new advertising sales representative at the Oliver Chronicle newspaper, had decided to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the sun on her air mattress on a secluded part of Osoyoos Lake last Monday.
However, when she arrived at the scene, she noticed several boaters were approaching too close to shore near other swimmers because a rope had been severed on some buoys in the water near Brookvale Holiday Resort on Lakeshore Drive in Osoyoos.
“I like to take my air mattress out to this section of the lake because it’s usually pretty quiet there and I can get some peace and quiet,” she said. “I usually like to take a rope and tie it off to one of the buoys and then just float out there, but I noticed the rope between the buoys had been cut and several boats were coming too close to shore near where everyone was swimming.
“So I tried pulling the ropes that connected the buoys on my lap when I was on the air mattress and I was going to try and tie them together to keep the boats away.”
Swartz said she had decided to try and tie off the ropes because one of her best friend’s lost a daughter who was ran over by a boat during a terrible accident more than 20 years ago and she didn’t want another incident to occur.
She had gathered most of the rope and was preparing to be a Good Samaritan and tie the buoys together “when a bunch of kids in a speed boat” went flying by a few metres from her air mattress.
“Needless to say, the wake from the waves hit me within seconds and sent me and my air mattress flipping into the air,” she said. “I flipped right over and the air mattress landed on top of my head. Several of the buoys also landed on top of the mattress and the rope I had been collecting ended up being wrapped around my ankles.”
After getting her bearings and knowing she was a strong swimmer, Swartz thought it would be easy to swim a few metres towards shore and get into shallow enough water to stand up and get the air mattress off her head.
However, the combination of having her ankles wrapped in rope, wading in the middle of a huge pile of milfoil and the weight of the air mattress on her head quickly made her realize it wasn’t going to be that easy, said Swartz.
“I was trying to move towards shore, but my feet couldn’t move because of the rope around my ankles and being caught up in the seaweed or milfoil,” she said. “I also had this big air mattress hanging over my head like a big cowboy hat.
“I was thinking to myself ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’ and eventually I could nudge my way towards the shore and eventually get to where I could stand up, but I realized I couldn’t move my feet. I now realize the only thing I can move are my arms. At this point, I started to think I’m not going to make it.”
She eventually started yelling for help without much success for a couple of minutes.
“I tried lifting my head and yelling ‘help’ and I can’t remember how many times I yelled without anyone responding,” she said. “There were a group of about eight people sitting on shore and I remember one guy raised his drink and said ‘cheers’ obviously thinking this wasn’t serious.”
She continued to yell and a group of people finally recognized she was in trouble, but no one was doing anything until a young woman jumped up, ran quickly into the water and saved her life, said Swartz.
“I could see this girl who was the closest to me on shore and I knew right away that she knew I was in big trouble,” she said. “She came flying at me and ran right through the seaweed or milfoil and flipped the air mattress off my head.
“I told her I couldn’t move my legs because some rope was tied around my ankles, so she dove down and quickly untied the rope. She then locked her arms around my arms and pulled me to where I could stand up on my own.”
When she got back to shore, Swartz said she became very emotional.
“I was thanking her and thanking her when we got back to shore, but I sort of lost it and started crying and had to go off on my own for a couple of minutes,” she said. “When I got back, I asked her name and she told me it was Charisse and she and her boyfriend were visiting from Alberta.
“I could feel tears welling up in my eyes again and I looked at her again and told her ‘thank you so so much.”
This young lady saved her life, said Swartz.
“She had this certain look in her eye and I could tell from her demeanor and manner that she knew she had done something special,” she said. “She had this almost angelic look in her eyes and she was very kind and empathetic towards me.
“I didn’t ask her last name and I was so out of it, I walked away again to regroup myself and when I went back, she was gone.”
If this woman hadn’t acted when she did, Swartz says she would have drowned.
“I’m a strong swimmer, but I had been yelling for help for a few minutes and I was about to give up,” she said. “There’s no question in my mind that this woman saved my life.”
Swartz said she is hoping to get the woman’s last name so she could recommend her for a commendation for bravery.
“All I could think of out there was I was going to die all alone,” she said. “I have a daughter and two grandchildren and I had all of these thoughts going through my head.
“I honestly thought this was the end until this angel heard my cry for help and came and saved me. I will forever be thankful to her.”
When she returned to the scene this past weekend, Swartz said she was thrilled to see the buoys had been reconnected to keep boat traffic away from the swimming area.
However, she couldn’t find the strength to go back in the water.
“I wanted to go back in, but I couldn’t,” she said. “I hope to soon, but I’m not ready yet.”