Tubing down the Chilliwack-Vedder river may seem like a good idea on a blazing hot day.
But many are unaware of the dangers. The riverbanks are littered with flimsy floatation devices and destroyed dinghies, left behind by those who took the power of the river for granted.
Natisha Dunn, 23, of Surrey. is so thankful just to be alive. She said she owes it all to her brave Chilliwack rescuers.
“One more minute and I would have let go,” she said. “My arms were shaking so bad.”
She’d started saying her prayers while clinging to a log. Then she looked up and saw her two rescuers scrambling toward her.
Two Chilliwack men jumped off their tubes and scrambled over to the logjam to reach her.
“There really are good people out there,” Dunn said. “My dad died when I was four, and my son, Dante, is four now. I’m just so glad my son doesn’t have to live without me, and I’m here because of them.”
Dunn said she had never tubed down the Vedder River before last Sunday. She and her boyfriend, Carlos, had been floating downriver, trying to stay connected with a rope between the two dinghies.
When they saw the log pile, they tried desperately to paddle away from the branches protruding out of the water. But the raging current was too strong and it dragged them right into the middle of a large logjam.
“There was nothing we could do,” she recounted.
Now Dunn says she’s so glad to be alive after her inflatable dinghy was punctured from the pressure of the rope, which left her clinging for dear life.
After flailing around, she managed to get a toehold on an underwater branch and kept her head just above the water.
Carlos was swept away in the river but managed to get to shore, and crawl out further downstream.
But fatigue took hold of Dunn and she was almost sucked underwater. She remembers her sister Ashley yelling at her to hang on, despite the exhaustion that was creeping in.
“My body is weak and I have cuts and bruises,” Dunn told The Progress on Tuesday morning. “But I am still here. Life is so precious to me now.”
Chilliwack resident Kegan Madeira, 27, is just happy and relieved that everyone made it OK. He was one of the two who jumped off his tube to help.
“We would hope that anyone would do the same thing we did. We didn’t think much of it at the time.”
He’d been tubing down the river under the train bridge with friends, Lorne Muth and Kristina McIntyre, when he spotted Dunn, who was in a lot of distress.
“We saw the log jam and were staying away from it. But someone was flagging us down to come over.”
They were floating down the river on large, sturdy inner tubes, as they so often did.
“We pulled over to the shore and jumped onto the logs where she was stuck.”
They made their way over. The young mom was clinging to the log, almost slipping under.
“She told us she couldn’t hold on much longer.”
They grabbed her and crawled to safety over the logs. They managed to flag down a small metal speed boat that was coming up the river at that moment.
Dunn and her sister Ashley were ferried to safety on the other side of the river, and the Chilliwack tubers just got back into the river and continued downriver.
“Everyone was in shock,” said Dunn, as they returned to shore. “My sister’s friend said to me ‘Seriously. you cheated death.'”
Dunn figures she may never step foot in a river again after her scary ordeal.
“People don’t know how dangerous the river is. I didn’t realize,” she said.
Dunn just had to find out who it was that came to her rescue, and she put her story on a local Facebook page, in an effort to track them down.
“I just can’t thank them enough. I owe them my life.”
She thanked Kegan and Lorne, but is still looking for the three people in the boat, who also were a part of the river rescue.
Natisha Dunn’s mom, Kathy Dunn, also wants to thank the river rescuers with a barbecue.
“They deserve to be recognized. They risked their own lives to save Natisha,” she said.
The family is contacting Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz’ office to see if the pair from Chilliwack, can be recognized for their bravery at city hall.
“I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she says. “To me they’re heroes.”