An Agassiz boater is advocating for better safety awareness for boaters and swimmers on Harrison Lake after rescuing five people from nearly drowning on Sunday, July 25.
According to James Hogg, two females fell off their tubes while being towed by a pontoon boat in the Echo Island area. Hogg said the three males in the boat jumped in after them after they failed to start the motor to go back for them.
“Five of them ended up in the water with four life jackets and the boat at least half a mile away,” Hogg recalled. “I didn’t think the (two groups) were even together. I (saw them) from a distance, and something didn’t look right.”
By the time Hogg made it over to the group, one female was unconscious.
“We dragged her aboard the boat, and the two girls were pretty close to the end,” Hogg said. “The two girls were blue. The guys I guess weren’t in the water as long, so they weren’t as bad off, but if another 10 minutes went by, they would have all been gone. 10 minutes, I think, would have been the difference between looking for some bodies today or not.”
The group told Hogg at least three boats passed close by and didn’t even notice them; they estimated they’d been in the water for 45 minutes. When Hogg came across the group, they looked to him to be okay and were not signalling that they were in distress; one of the males, who happened to be a lifeguard, ultimately swam up to Hogg’s boat to get their attention.
“That means they were at the point where I don’t think they even had the strength to even wave to me,” he added.
There were four life jackets in the boat for five people, according to Hogg. The group told Hogg they called for a tow boat but hadn’t called for a high-speed boat to rescue their friends. Hogg hadn’t examined the pontoon boat but speculated that in the urgency to save their friends, someone had flooded the engine trying to get it started again.
“They made all kinds of mistakes to get in that situation to start with,” Hogg said. “It was a close call for those people. They were pretty thankful that we came along. I don’t know if the people aboard the boat realized how close they were. In their defense, they probably dind’t know how cold that lake is.”
Hogg urged local boat rental companies and boat owners to stress safety precautions to passengers and operators before leaving the dock or shore.