‘IT WAS A MIRACLE’: Seniors who almost drowned search for Good Samaritans

More than a month removed from their brush with death, Pasichnyk and Matechuk are still unclear on the details

Allan Pasichnyk (left) and Ernie Matechuk are lucky to be alive — and now they want to thank their unidentified saviours.

Allan Pasichnyk (left) and Ernie Matechuk are lucky to be alive — and now they want to thank their unidentified saviours.

By Tim Petruk

Kamloops This Week

It was “a fluke.”

That’s how Good Samaritan Ryan Fisher described it — the chance role he played in saving the lives of two Kamloops men who had all but given up on survival after their boat flipped in a small North Thompson lake last month.

Fisher said he was driving with his family down a back-country road near Barriere when he was flagged down.

“I was taking my kids camping and one guy came running up, yelling and screaming,” he said.

“By then, they’d already got the two guys down to the dock.”

The “two guys” were Allan Pasichnyk and Ernie Matechuk.

Pasichnyk, 84, and Matechuk, 71, have been fishing buddies for more than a decade. They spend most Thursdays at Gorman Lake, 19 kilometres northwest of Barriere.

The secluded spot became their go-to fishing hole because of its isolation.

“We go on Thursdays because there’s no one else on the lake,” Pasichnyk told KTW.

“We could be there all day and see maybe two or three vehicles.”

Pasichnyk characterized the “fluke” as something else entirely.

“It was a miracle,” he said.

***

More than a month removed from their Sept. 3 brush with death, Pasichnyk and Matechuk are still unclear on the details.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Pasichnyk said.

“I caught a fish, but I had my line behind the oar, so I just turned around and stepped back — and over we went.”

Their nine-foot flat-bottom boat flipped. Both men had life vests, but only Matechuk was wearing his. Pasichnyk had given his preserver to his friend to keep his legs dry in the rain.

In all their years fishing together, the pair said, they had never gone into the water.

“It just happened so quick,” Matechuk said.

“The boat created some sort of vacuum underneath and we couldn’t move it.”

The water in Gorman Lake was 13 C, according to Pasichnyk’s fish finder.

Both men went into shock.

“I didn’t feel cold at all,” Matechuk said.

“That’s why I didn’t think I would get hypothermia, because I didn’t feel cold.”

They were about 100 feet from shore — too far for Pasichnyk to swim without a life vest.

So, he grabbed hold of the overturned boat and prayed.

“I hung on,” he said.

“We finally realized we’re not going to make it, so both Ernie and I prayed.

“We turned to the good Lord, the only one who could help us, and he did.

“It really was a miracle.”

After spending an hour trying to stay afloat in cold water, with colder rain pouring down, Pasichnyk and Matechuk had given up.

“I told Allan, because he said a few times, ‘You swim to shore — I’m going to let go of the boat,’” Matechuk said.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to leave you here.’

“I remember, when it started getting blurry for me, I said, ‘Allan, I think this is it.’”

All the while, Pasichnyk said, they were praying.

“I had given up, too,” he said.

“Then, we heard a holler from the road and our hopes just boosted right up.

“Both of us sent up a holler. I think they heard it down to Kamloops.

“About the last thing I remember is a boat coming out to our boat. I just remember the boat coming to ours.”

According to Fisher, the two life-savers happened upon the distressed men by complete chance.

“They told me the only reason they stopped is because one of them had to go pee,” he said. “And, the other one was just looking around with his binoculars and he saw the capsized boat.

“It was a fluke.”

Fisher said the Good Samaritans rushed into action, getting their own boat into the waters of Gorman Lake and racing to rescue.

They towed Pasichnyk and Matechuk to shore and began to warm them up — slowly.

“They knew what they were doing,” Matechuk said.

“The RCMP said that, if they warmed us up too fast, we would have had heart attacks.”

When Fisher happened upon the scene, the Good Samaritans had already loaded Matechuk into their truck.

Pasichnyk, who was in rougher shape, was lying passed out on a wooden boardwalk.

Fisher said he approached and grabbed his hand.

“When you grabbed him, it was like you were grabbing onto an ice cube,” he said.

Pasichnyk said he was told a different metaphor.

“Ryan was saying, when he grabbed onto my hand, it was like grabbing the hand of a dead man,” he said.

Fisher said he helped load Pasichnyk into the Good Samaritans’ truck. They then drove to meet a pair of waiting ambulances near Barriere, where the two fishermen were rushed to Royal Inland Hospital.

Matechuk was released the following morning.

Pasichnyk wasn’t discharged until a day later.

Both men feel lucky to be alive — and both want to thank their unidentified heroes.

“We were waiting for the end to come and, thankfully, it didn’t,” Pasichnyk said. “We sure would like to get a hold of the boys and thank them.”

All is not lost for Pasichnyk and Matechuk.

Pasichnyk said he hired a diver to fetch his sunken gear from the bottom of Gorman Lake.

The pair will fish again. But, not on Thursday.

“Not yet,” Matechuk said.

“We’ll wait until spring, probably.”

CAN YOU HELP?

Allan Pasichnyk and Ernie Matechuk would really like to track down the two Good Samaritans who saved them from drowning in Gorman Lake on Sept. 3. So far, all they know is that the men were young — likely in their 20s — were from Kamloops and work as electricians at the same local company. If you know who they are, call 778-471-7540 and we’ll get them in touch.