It was a Father’s Day swim that Nathaniel Redecop, 16, and his cousins 13-year-old Caleb and 15-year-old Zach Dyck will never forget.
Thanks to their lifesaving skills, it’s a day Pete Seimens, and Kyan, now 14, and Janoah Seimens, 16, will remember.
The Dyck brothers, from Luton (south of Aylmer), and Redecop, from Vienna, rescued Pete, Kyan and Janoah, who were all potential drowning victims in Big Otter Creek, which flows through Vienna.
Confident swimmers, having taken multiple Bronze Star lifesaving courses as well as taking swimming lessons from a very young age, Nathanial, Caleb and Zach’s parents gave the teenagers permission to swim in the river where they met Kyan and Janoah, also swimming between Vienna Line and Chapel Street, near the south bridge on Plank Road on June 17.
Taking a break from the swimming, the three teens were on shore when they saw Kyan, Janoah and a cousin, Matthias, swim toward the far shore.
“I hadn’t even gone into the water yet, I was only up to my knees,” said Zach.
The current wasn’t “strong”, but enough to slowly pull you if you stay still, said Nathaniel, and at its deepest point in the middle, it was at least seven feet, almost a 12 inches above his 6’2″ head.
“It got pretty deep fast,” said Zach, estimating the river was about 12-14 metres across at that point, “but it’s not a straight drop. But it gets fairly deep quick.”
“Kyan, Matthias, and Janoah were swimming to the other side,” Caleb recalled. “And then Janoah got cramps in his legs.”
“They were about three-quarters of the way there,” said Nathaniel. “Kyan said, ‘You can make it, we’re almost there.'”
“They were really close (to the far side),” Caleb nodded, “so Kyan said, ‘we’re almost there.’ He (Janoah) said ‘I’m getting cramps in my legs,’ and then grabbed on to Kyan and pulled him under.”
“Kyan swallowed lots of water,” Nathaniel noted.
“It looked like they were wrestling, so nobody did anything at first,” said Zach. “Then Kyan got pulled underwater and he was under for quite a bit.”
“We just thought they were wrestling at first, because that’s what it looked like – we do that all the time,” Caleb nodded, “so we didn’t do anything at first. Even Matthias, who was near them, thought it was a game. It kept going for a little while, then Janoah actually got Kyan down underwater… then he started screaming for help.”
“Janoah was on Kyan’s shoulders, that’s when he started screaming for help,” Nathaniel nodded.
“Kyan couldn’t help (Janoah) because he was underwater, so Mr. Siemens ran into the water fully clothed,” said Zach.
Caleb, Nathaniel and Zach immediately started swimming toward the brothers. Matthias, said Nathaniel, already in the water, also tried to help.
“It was a bit of a shock,” said Caleb, recalling the moment they realized it was an emergency situation. “It was like, ‘what?’ And then, ‘they’re drowning!’ And then you go and help.”
Caleb arrived first, pulled Janoah up, and Pete took hold of his son.
“He (Janoah) was still in panic, and he got Pete underwater,” said Caleb. “And Pete had blacked out underwater… but before that, he tried to grab me and got me underwater.”
“By this time he (Pete) was already super tired,” said Zach, “because he was swimming with all his clothes on. He was pulled under as well… you could see the energy just drain from him. He was so tired and swallowing lots of water.”
“Zach and Nathaniel, they got Janoah off of Pete,” said Caleb. “I got Pete up, and I stabilized him.”
Nathaniel and Zach guided Janoah to the grassy bank. Then Nathaniel swam back to the far side to see how Kyan was doing on the other side of the river, and the two of them walked back across the bridge.
“Janoah, he was shaking so much,” said Zach, noting Caleb had helped float Pete back to shore. A neighbour, summoned by Helen Siemens, threw a rope into the water to help them Pete.
“I remembered my training and I asked Janoah how he felt,” said Zach. “He said ‘very dizzy’ and he felt like he was going to pass out. I put him in in the semi prone position. And Mr. Pete Siemens, he was already out before I got Janoah up on the shore.”
Pete, Janoah and Kyan all later went to a local hospital, where they were examined and released.
“They (Janoah and Kyan) all knew how to swim,” Zach noted. “And Mr. Seimens, he’s a very strong swimmer.”
Nathaniel, Caleb and Zach all have Bronze Star lifesaving training, a course they’ve taken multiple times at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
“Most of the stuff that we learned, I just kept thinking what to do and remembered,” said Zach.
“I feel good about myself, that we were able to save their lives,” said Caleb.
Caleb, Zach and Nathaniel were formally recognized at the Lake Lisgar Water Park in Tillsonburg
by the town’s Aquatics Department and the Ontario Lifesaving Society.