Nelson man Woody Wudkevich says it will be a long time before he gets over the experience that has him hailed a hero — because he wasn’t able to do more.
Wudkevich was on vacation at a Cuban resort last week when he saved a 7-year-old boy from drowning in the ocean. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to help the boy’s father.
Asleep on a beach in Varadero, Cuba, Wudkevich was woken and saw the Ottawa family in trouble. Ye Liu, 40 and his son had been playing at the water’s edge and were overtaken by a wave and pulled out to sea.
Wudkevich swam 200 meters out into the water.
“When I got there, I saw a young boy. A wave was coming over the top of him, so I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him towards me and I said ‘Are you OK?’ And all he said was ‘I wanna go in now.’ So I looked and his father was swept out further,” Wudkevich told CBC news.
As he brought the boy to safety, Liu was taken further out to sea. He tried to go back out but couldn’t carry on. When lifeguards arrived, and retrieved the boy’s father, he couldn’t be resuscitated.
“[I’m] grateful I could save Connor,” Wudkevich told CTV, “just sad I couldn’t save his dad, that’s the tough part.”
Wudkevich is back home in Nelson. He has received a great deal of media attention for the rescue mission and told the Star that he doesn’t want to talk about the experience anymore. It still haunts him.
“I don’t think I will be able to get back to normal for quite a bit. It’s just overwhelming. It’s too much,” he told the Star.
He appreciates the tremendous support he’s received from the community upon returning to Nelson.
Wudkevich came home not knowing much about the family he helped and has been reaching out to them. The Chinese community of Ottawa is rallying support for the Liu family and Wudkevich encourages helping them at comefromchina.com/liuyue/