Man survives after plunging into Stuart Lake

It was a warm sunny winter’s afternoon on Feb. 15 when Jonathon Joseph set out on a snowmobile adventure from Portage to Tachie, B.C.

Jonathon Joseph in Fort St. James.

Barbara LatkowskiCaledonia Courier

 

It was a warm sunny winter’s afternoon on Feb. 15 when Jonathon Joseph set out on a snowmobile adventure from Portage to Tachie, B.C.

But what was supposed to be a fun day of snowmobiling, took a turn for the worse when Joseph’s snowmobile broke through the ice leaving him immersed in the frigid water of Stuart Lake.

“I didn’t know if I would make it. And I knew I didn’t have much time,” Joseph said.

The 33-year-old from Yekooche decided to take the trip with others on two more snowmobiles that afternoon. Joseph ended up in Tachie first and that’s when the unexpected happened.

“When I was in the water, I could see my Uncle Jason coming up. I yelled at him to turn around to get help and he did,” Joseph said.

“I’m glad the others weren’t right behind me or we might have all ended up in the water.”

This was Joseph’s first trip from Portage to Tachie, a trip which would have normally taken about 2 hours. “I was just so excited. I just didn’t notice what was ahead of me,” Joseph said.

The plan was for everyone to meet at the Water Tower in Tachie. But on the way there, Joseph noticed the ice colour change.

The ice was too thin.

“I should have turned around but I just wasn’t aware of the situation. I was so excited and it was such a nice day. It all happened so fast,” Joseph said.

Once in the water, Joseph’s snowmobile sank to the bottom of the lake.

“All I had was the seat to hold on to,” Joseph said. “Thanks goodness that seat floated. It helped keep me alive.”

“I lost my snowmobile and I lost my boots, but that’s all material,” Joseph said. “This doesn’t compare to nearly losing my life,” Joseph smiles in relief.

“The whole time I was in the water, my cousin kept talking to me. No one could reach me but he kept talking to me and assuring me that everything would be alright.”

“I didn’t know how much time I had. I tried to stay positive and think about all of the good things in my life, the good times and especially my two boys,” Joseph said.

After 45 minutes in the water, friends from Tachie brought out their boats from Thomas Point and Robert’s Point.

The men were then able to retrieve Joseph from the water.

“These men risked their lives to save me. Thank God they were there when they were or I might not be here today,” Joseph said.

Chad Roberts, Allan Roberts, Darcy Isadore and Ron Winsor, all from Tachie, helped with the rescue and Joseph remains forever grateful.

All men received a certificate of appreciation from Tachie.

In hospital, Joseph was cold and shaken up.

“I was scared. I didn’t think I would make it,” Joseph said.

He was happy to be alive and couldn’t wait to reunite with his wife, Katelon and two boys, Braydon, 5 and Grayson, 2.

“I couldn’t wait to see them,” Joseph said.

“My step dad Norm came to see me in the hospital and my mom said she aged 20 years in five minutes,” Joseph said.

“But I’m so thankful to everyone who helped that day, to the men who helped save me, the Police, Fire Dept., the nurses and doctors at the hospital and everyone that came to see me.”

“I’m so thankful for their prayers and wishes. Although, after that, I’m not sure if they wanted to punch me or hug me,” Joseph said with a chuckle.

After the incident, Joseph was made aware that people lost their lives in that very area.

“You never know when something like this is going to happen. I’m so thankful to everyone. And I’m so thankful I’m still here.”