Families combine efforts to rescue drowning man at Sandy Lake

·4 min read

Four local families have been forever bonded together thanks to joint life-saving efforts by several heroic individuals during what could have ended as a tragic event at Sandy Lake, Sask.

30-year-old Tanner Kilby, from the Tweedsmuir area, almost lost his life during a beach day on July 16 with his brother, Jarrett, and their friends.

Shortly after arriving, Kilby went swimming on his own, but started to struggle about 50 yards from the shore. His brother attempted to rescue him, but was unsuccessful.

Nearby, the Dupre and Poulin families were enjoying a birthday party on the beach. While watching for fish on the shore, Gordon Dupre noticed a man struggling to stay above water and could hear Jarrett’s cries for help. He jumped into action, grabbing his paddle boat and racing towards Jarrett.

His son, Brennan Dupre and son-in-law Andrew Poulin, swam to catch up behind him.

With the help of another man on the beach named Anthony, the four were able to swim 14 feet down and pull Tanner from the water.

Poulin said he had no idea it was a person they were saving, until he reached down to grab a paw and instead found Tanner’s hand.

“At first, on the way out there, someone mentioned it might have been a dog. Once I got out there, Jarrett came up from underneath and he specifically said, 'he's too heavy, I can't bring him up by myself,” said Poulin. “When we pulled him out of the water, he didn't look like he was going to be good at all. He was discoloured in a way that I've only seen on people that have passed away.”

Tanner was lifeless, but Gordon immediately began mouth-to-mouth as the others paddled to shore. Once there, Poulin began chest compression while Gordan’s wife and daughter ran to call emergency services.

Due to weak cell reception in the area, they had to ask someone to drive them further away to contact 911. It took over thirty minutes for first responders to arrive from Waskesiu.

Gordon hadn’t taken a CPR course in almost 30 years, but he said it all came back to him when he saw Tanner needed help.

Deborah and Jonathan Halverson, from the town of Weldon, were also at Sandy Lake that day with their young children. Deborah offered to take over CPR so Poulin could catch his breath, while her husband led a prayer over Tanner’s blue and unresponsive body.

“What was crazy was that nobody knew CPR on the beach that day except myself and Deborah,” said Poulin. “She was able to give me a moment, I wanted to thank her for what she did.”

While everyone held hands over him, and after another set of chest compressions, Tanner’s lungs miraculously inflated. He was moved into recovery position while they continued to rub his sternum and talk to him. Though he couldn’t speak, he squeezed his brother’s hand while waiting for Prince Albert paramedics to arrive.

Deborah said that as a Christian family, they immediately started praying for God’s help to revive Tanner and give strength to those who were trying to save his life

Tanner was picked up by STARS helicopter and flown to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. He spent only three days on a breathing tube and was released on the fourth day.

Tanner didn’t let the life-changing ordeal hold him back, he pushed through the pain in his chest and was back at work only 10 days later.

Due to the heroic efforts of all those individuals who were at the right place at the right time and his own personal mental and physical strength, Tanner’s life was saved.

“I wanted to meet Tanner because there wasn't much of a first impression. I wanted to see Jarrett too because he was an immense help,” said Poulin. “I wanted to check up with him to make sure he was good because that would be traumatic for anybody.”

“I'm glad it ended this way and he is healthy and better now,” he said.

The four families reunited on the same beach two weeks later, but instead of saving a life, they were celebrating one. They celebrated Tanner’s miraculous recovery and all those who came together that day to save him.

The Dupre family said that Tanner is “an incredible fighter.”

“When we met Tanner two weeks later on the same beach, it was so joyous,” they said. “Tanner swam out and dove down to the bottom where he sank to. That day not only changed Tanner’s life, but as a family we are forever changed.”

Bailey Sutherland, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald