Haldimand County man rescues stranger who fell overboard in Hamilton Harbor
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details
A 78-year-old man nearly drowned after descending the Bayfront Park boat ramp around 9.30pm on Thursday.
Shawn MacNeil and Wes Kassem were fishing in Bayfront Park when they noticed the man’s white car half submerged in water.
Hamilton police say MacNeil, who jumped in to save the man, is ‘a brave citizen’ who ‘did everything possible to save the driver’, and that the driver was ‘taken to hospital in a non-life-threatening condition ».
« We never really fish there, » Kassem told CBC Hamilton.
“Honestly, it was a fishing trip I will never forget,” MacNeil said.
Kassem said he did not see the car drive down the boat ramp, but he heard from others at the scene that the driver hit a curb and lost control of the car.
Kassem recorded what followed on his cell phone. The video is age restricted, as viewers may find the content disturbing, and can only be viewed on Youtube at this link.
In the video recorded by Kassem, it took just over a minute for the interior of the car to be completely submerged. The driver managed to open his door, but it is not known why he was unable to leave the vehicle.
Within two minutes, Kassem and MacNeil realized one of them would have to take the man out.
« Just seeing the air bubbles, we were like, ‘Yeah, this guy is going to die right in front of us,' » Kassem told CBC Hamilton.
In the video, a panicked MacNeil said, « Somebody’s got to come in. Oh my God, he’s going to die, » before undressing and jumping into the water.
MacNeil said when he realized he had to save the man, his first thought was to make sure he had dry clothes to put on after and try to get to the car in one jump.
« I thought I could make it, but I didn’t, » he said.
MacNeil said he pulled the man out of the car and found he was not breathing.
« I saw [CPR] in the movies a few times, but I never had any formal first aid training, I just knew chest compressions, blowing in the mouth and hoping for the best, » he said.
In the video, MacNeil can be heard shouting, « I need a fucking paramedic, man. I don’t know what I’m doing here. »
Although he had no formal CPR training, MacNeil said he was able to clear the man’s airway and restart his breathing, saving his life.
He said there were « a lot of emotions going through my head at the time, but mostly just relief », when he realized the man was breathing.
« That’s when I started to panic, » he said. « I saw the cops coming and I was like, ‘Get here as fast as you can and make sure he’s still breathing.' »
MacNeil and a Hamilton police officer held the man out of the water while waiting for a fishing boat driven by a Hamilton police sergeant to pull the man out of the water.
If you see someone in trouble, « help them »
MacNeil said the fact that he saved a man’s life seems « surreal ».
« I’m glad I was able to help him, » he said, adding that he hoped the man would go on to lead a good life.
Kassem said he was « really proud » of his friend, and that, « He did this randomly. I know he will always support me no matter what. »
Kassem and MacNeil have been friends for many years, are from Haldimand County and work together in Kassem’s appliance repair business.
MacNeil said for him, what is important is that « if someone sees someone in trouble, he helps them ».