Friday, July 21, 2017

A Tragedy and Small Decisions

Small decisions can sometimes have a huge impact. We had a tragedy at the Canmore quarry swimming hole yesterday. A tragedy that I stayed awake much of last night wondering if I could have made a difference.

My day was a bit packed, but not too bad.  We were planning on entertaining an old, good friend for dinner, a para-nordic coach, so I knew that if there was going to be any training this day it would have to be in the afternoon. So, between appointments at the Nordic Centre and a video conference call I squeezed in a swim at the quarry. That was decision #1. I chose between the lake and the pool, going with the former as I felt it would give me more time.

Racing out the door to jump on my bike for the 5 minute ride to the lake I quickly texted my next appointment asking for :30 more minutes. I then left my phone on the kitchen counter as I felt my unattended bike and gear would be vulnerable to a would be thief (usually not a problem, but you never know). That was decision #2, and one that I would come to regret.

As I was churning through my 4x10min laps in our quarry swimming hole  my mind began to wander thinking that I should have brought my phone with me and had the conference call at the quarry, allowing me to further enjoy this beautiful day and spectacular setting. Instead I raced home for my 3 o’clock appt. and hunched over my computer and desk.

Later that night Deb came to bed (waking me up) and said that the emergency vehicles (& even STARS helicopter) that our visiting friends had seen, were responding to a drowning in the quarry. She further related the details to me and even in my sleepy state my heart started pounding as I realized I knew exactly who perished that day.

The drowning came at 3:30, at the south end of the lake where I was. There weren’t a lot of people down there and that’s how I knew who the poor soul was. It was a 28 year old guy. I remember watching him swim out earlier as I was putting my wetsuit on (the quarry is very deep (200'+) and very cold. If you’re swimming for more than just a cool off dip, you need a wetsuit). He wasn’t much of a swimmer and I remember thinking that he better be careful of the drop off. It’s shallow, then really drops. His friends were taking pictures of their friend, and seemed to be enjoying their polar bearish friend’s dip.

According to the details I heard, the victim cried out for help, but as I remember, there were only a few young gals sun bathing. A few 100 meters up the lake there would have been more people and they’re probably the ones that responded, but it was too late. The swimmer went under and they couldn’t find him.

What rolled over and over in my head last night was that if I’d have been taking my call down there, I would have been only a few meters away. With my swim training (did a 3k open water swim race in that same quarry just 5 days before) I was probably the most fit swimmer at the entire quarry that day. Finally, I also have Water Safety Instruction Lifesaving certification (took it back in Uni, haven’t had to use since, but the skills were drilled into me). I could have been the guy that raced to his aid in a timely manner and saved the day and a life.

Maybe not. But I’m guessing I could have.