Saskatoon runner rescues struggling man from South Saskatchewan River

·3 min read
Brian Gibson, left, rescues a cold, exhausted man from the South Saskatchewan River. (Harvey Weber - image credit)
Brian Gibson, left, rescues a cold, exhausted man from the South Saskatchewan River. (Harvey Weber - image credit)

A Saskatoon runner who pulled a wearied man from the South Saskatchewan River's brisk water says he thought the act would go unnoticed, but a video of it has gone viral.

On Wednesday, Brian Gibson, 38, and his friend Adam Patola were running sets of stairs around 5:45 p.m. CST at a spot near Ravine Road and Spadina Crescent that overlooks the river.

They noticed a man wading in the water with his pedal bike, apparently trying to cross.

"That's something you don't see, especially in April. It's obviously really frigid waters," Gibson said.

It ended with Gibson stripped down to his underwear, walking up the shore with the man's tired frame — about 250 pounds, Gibson estimated — hanging from his shoulders.

From toe to hip [my leg] was like multiple different colours of blue, red and orange. - Brian Gibson

Gibson said they had noticed the man crossing, but expected he would turn back, realizing how difficult it could be to get across the water.

But he didn't.

The man lost his bike and Patola suggested they go help. By the time they got near they could tell "the guy was in some serious trouble."

"He could touch where he was but he was so exhausted and fatigued and likely freezing that he was dropping down to his knees and his head was going underneath the water a couple times," Gibson told CBC's Bonnie Allen.

Gibson was just pulling his shirt off when the man, about halfway through the river now, looked in his direction and called for help.

Harvey Weber
Harvey Weber

With no training and no rescue experience, Gibson relied on a surge of adrenaline.

He asked for a belt from onlookers, jumped in and half-swam-half-walked through the water.

He expected to use the belt to hang on to the man, but didn't need it. He dragged the man back to shore.

LISTEN | The rescuer and the cameraman recount how a man was rescued from the South Sask. River:

Harvey Weber caught the whole thing on camera. He was also the one who offered his belt up to pull the man to safety.

"The sad part is that when somebody drowns it's like they're there, they're apparent — and then they're gone. It's really that sick feeling of 'where are they?'" Weber told Leisha Grebinski, host of Saskatoon Morning.

Watch Gibson rescue the man from the river:

Gibson said he didn't notice how cold the water was until he emerged after the rescue.

It also made him realize why the man, who Gibson estimates was in the water about three times longer than himself, was struggling to get out.

"From toe to hip, I've never seen my leg like that, it was like multiple different colours of blue, red and orange," he said.

"My leg was, like, translucent. I could see hundreds, if not maybe thousands, of veins in my leg … I tried to start jogging back to the set of stairs and my calves and my legs actually completely seized up."

Gibson said he's since went back to the water to test its temperature and found it hovered between -4 and 4 C.

He wasn't sure why the man was in there, but said the man made a poor decision.

In an email, emergency services said the man, also 38-years-old, was pulled from the water just before 6 p.m CST and was transported to hospital.

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