Quick-thinking officers save the lives of two fishermen
A pair of courageous fish and wildlife officers have been recognized for saving the lives of two fishermen.
Officers Kerry Rudneski and Paul Johnson, both based in Lac La Biche, were recently awarded the Royal Canadian Humane Association Bronze Medal for Bravery and Lifesaving by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, His Honour Donald Ethell.
On a stormy day in summer 2012, officer Johnson was working in Lac La Biche when he was told by a truck driver that two men had fallen into the lake and were in danger.
“With binoculars I could see the men hanging onto a small capsized boat in rough water,” said officer Johnson. “Shortly afterwards, officer Rudneski and I launched our boat. The waves at the time were between three to five feet.”
Conditions were so bad the quick-thinking officers could not get their boat close enough to pick up the two men. They were also worried that two nearby nets full of fish could get tangled in their rescue boat’s propeller.
By this stage the fishermen were almost hypothermic and in shock. They could not have survived much longer in the water.
“I threw the men a rescue bag,” said officer Johnson. “After several attempts, each of the men took hold and we pulled them from their upside-down boat and into ours.”
The officers then ferried the fishermen to the nearest landing point. The survivors were transported to Lac La Biche Hospital by ambulance.
Officers Rudneski and Johnson returned to the scene and loaded the nets containing 500 to 600 pounds of fish onto their boat – they did not want the catch to go to waste. However, it soon became clear they were carrying too much weight.
“The waves continued to crash over our boat,” said officer Johnson. “However, thanks to our training, we made it to within 20 feet of the shoreline before the craft was swamped.”
“Officers Rudneski and Johnson deserve to be recognized because they risked their own lives to save these fishermen,” said chief fish and wildlife officer Daniel Boyco. “I’m very proud of their brave actions – they are truly a credit to the branch.”