'I said my last prayer': Air mattress drifts into danger, triggers emotional rescue on Lake Winnipeg
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018 5:28PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, June 13, 2018 6:14PM CST
A Winnipeg woman is sharing her story after what was supposed to be a fun day at Patricia Beach with her pregnant cousin which nearly turned tragic for the two women in a matter of minutes.
Fortunately hers has a happy ending thanks to a group of beachgoers who heard the calls for help and jumped into action.
Caitlan Okrainec and her cousin, who is nine months pregnant, were lying on a queen-sized air mattress together, floating on Lake Winnipeg when Okrainec said the mattress drifted away from shore in what seemed like a matter of minutes.
When the two women tried paddling back to the beach, the mattress flipped and blew away out into the middle of the lake leaving them stranded in deep water.
"She said, ‘Oh Cait, I'm so sorry about the air mattress,’ and I looked at her and just said 'swim,’ said Okrainec. “Before we realized how much danger we were in, we must've been swimming for a solid 10 minutes."
"I ended up yelling help first, I just gave a good ‘help, help’ and then she ended up…a blood-curdling scream, 'help' you know 'help us.'”
Okrainec said her and her cousin separated in the water. They were getting tired and began losing hope.
"I didn't see help coming,” said Okrainec. “I was getting deeper and deeper and it was getting more real and real and I just…I said my last prayer."
"I didn't think I was prepared to die.”
Fortunately Brad Leitch and his wife Adrienne were playing frisbee close to shore with another couple.
"When we stopped and we all listened, we heard help,” said Brad.
With no lifeguards at the beach, a call was made to 911 and the four friends immediately jumped into action.
"We just started swimming out to them and screaming back for help as we were going out," said Adrienne.
She estimates she swam about 10 minutes to get to Okrainec's pregnant cousin and their friend Garrett LeBlanc went to Caitlan.
LeBlanc said a kayaker reached Caitlan first.
“I was definitely gassed by the end of it,” said LeBlanc. “They were definitely going the wrong way with the wind.”
The rescuers helped the two women to shore, everyone made it back safe but shaken.
"I just think of the what-ifs,” said Adrienne. “I'm still pretty emotional about that."
"If they had gone out further or if we had got to them and they were already drowned. In the moment you just do what you can."
It’s an ordeal which has experts warning about the use of inflatables on lakes in high winds.
"If you're going to go out on an inflatable at a beach like that, first off, we would say if there's an off-shore wind, please don't,” said Lifesaving Society of Manitoba operations manager Kevin Tordiffe. “It's not the right time for that at those environments."
“When they’re on the surface of the water and without somebody on them they’re going to blow at the speed of the wind. So if the wind is moving 10 or 15 kilometres an hour that’s faster than an Olympic swimmer will swim in a race.”
The rescuers and survivors have remained in contact and plan to reunite after the birth of the baby.
"So there's three of them actually,” said Brad. “I think that's the feeling of hope we have right now is that, they're alive, they're okay and pretty soon they're going to welcome a little one into the world."
Okrainec hopes by sharing the story, it will help others avoid experiencing a similar ordeal.
The Lifesaving Society of Manitoba said it’s important people take their own safety into account when trying to help others.
The organization also said only aquatic specific equipment should be used in water.