|"Foley Lake in the Chilliwack River Valley where a side-by-side vehicle carrying five people went into the water on May 3, 2020 killing two children. (GoogleMaps)
Two Good Samaritans are credited with helping to save three people at Foley Lake in Chilliwack Sunday afternoon.
While RCMP confirm two children, aged nine and 10, died in a tragic off-road vehicle accident, two adults and a third child survived, thanks in part to the quick thinking and calm actions of Joy Pringle and her friend Hannah Reinholt.
The women live in Squamish and came to Foley Lake to unwind, reconnect with nature and remember Joy’s sister Bekah, who died in a car accident in December of 2018 and whose birthday is this week.
Joy and Hannah had finished camping and were packing up to leave when a kid on a dirt bike rode up asking for help.
“He said there was an accident with a side-by-side (SxS ATV-style vehicle) that was in the water,” Joy said. “With limited information we ran 10 minutes up a hill, and as we arrived we saw that the side-by-side fell down a 100 foot embankment into the lake.”
Joy said she scrambled down the embankment and realized two kids were strapped in the submerged vehicle by seat belts.
“I grabbed a nearby belly boat, jumped on and swam to where I could see bubbles coming out,” she recalled. “I dove down and tried my best to find them. I had no light and it was dark and cold and all I could feel was the tires. It was too deep and really cold, and I realized I couldn’t rescue them.
“I realized I would be putting my life at further risk, and I’d be unable to hold my breath long enough to pull them out even if I did find them.”
An RCMP news release Sunday said the vehicle was 15 feet deep. Joy said the frigid water took her breath away, and her lungs were burning as she finally came up for air.
Three other people who were in the side-by-side were sitting on the embankment and they were in bad shape. Joy described them as “pretty pale/bluish” and she administered first aid. They huddled together, trying to stay warm, and as they did that Hannah scrambled up and down the steep embankment several times bringing towels, blankets, dry clothes and hand warmers.
“She was an angel,” Joy said. “She literally ran over giving the clothes off her back.”
The two women sent for help immediately, but it takes at least an hour to get back into an area where there is cellular phone service, and Joy said it was a three or four hour wait until emergency crews responded. When police, fire and search and rescue arrived, Joy helped set up tarps and stayed with the two adults, who were injured and needed to be taken by boat to a waiting helicopter.
”There were two fisherman that arrived first and were quick thinking as well,” Joy added. “They gave me jackets too, when I was shivering. We all worked together. Everyone took care of each other.”
The third child was able to make it up the embankment with help from Joy and one of the fishermen, and Hannah placed him in a Jeep that was running with the heat on. The child’s uncle and cousins were there to comfort him, and Hannah kept checking in on him while Joy went back down the embankment to comfort the parents.
“The mom didn’t want to leave her kids alone in the water and I promised her that I would stay with her two children until they were recovered by the police dive team/SAR,” Joy said. “I’m proud that I could give the family peace of mind that the kids were never alone.
“I’m sad that I couldn’t do more, but we did everything that we could.”
Joys’ efforts were noticed. An emergency responder who wished to remain anonymous had this to say.
“When we arrived we found the parents beside the lake being attended to by a lady from Squamish who had already begun preliminary first aid for them. She got them as warm and comfortable as possible under the circumstances and she attempted to try to reach the submerged children.
“This young lady did a tremendous job yesterday and she deserves some acknowledgement for her cool headedness and assistance in a very difficult situation.”