Woman rescued from lake

by Derek Cornet

Living up to its name, Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky – or perhaps unlucky – day for an Alberta woman who came dangerously close to drowning when hypothermia set in during a swim recently.

It was a typical late summer morning Sept. 13 along the shores of Fowler Lake near Loon Lake when – looking out at the lake from her sister, Marianne Wettlaufer’s, cabin – Carrie Saunders said she received “a calling from the Creator” to take to the water.

“I didn’t swim much this summer because it hadn’t called to me,” she said. “That day, I didn’t start with the intention to swim across the lake, but as I swam, I was also called to give thanks.”

Saunders successfully swam across Fowler Lake – which is one mile long by one mile wide – but was deterred from exiting because of high weeds growing on the lake bed near the shoreline. Feeling she had the energy to swim back, she turned around and began the journey to to her sister’s cabin.

But, not too long after embarking on her return, Saunders became ill. She said she had a feeling she was going to vomit in the water and felt drowsy. Seeing a boat in the distance, she rose her arms out of the water and began waving for help.

Operating the boat was Trevor Hein, who was fishing with his brothers-in-law Russell and Roland Gervais. The men were in the area visiting family in Loon Lake and Makwa when they decided to head out that morning to try their luck at fishing.

They were fishing on Fowler Lake for close to two hours before noticing Saunders around 11 a.m. Hein said she was about 500 yards from the boat when she suddenly began to flail her arms for help.

“I was surprised to see someone out there because we fish there often and we never see anyone else,” he said.

The men rushed to the scene where they met Saunders. She was able to tell them she might have hypothermia. After assisting her into the boat, they drove her back to the cabin where her sister and daughter were waiting for her.

Roland Gervais said they never saw the women again until they began loading Hein’s boat at the launch site. The ladies approached them and thanked them for rescuing Saunders. Gervais said Saunders didn’t say much, adding it could be because she was still in shock.

In what Saunders described as a mantra, however, she gave thanks to the people in her life and the world around her during the swim. With every stroke of her arms, she said she prayed to the Earth, water, sky and the moon. Saunders also said Fowler Lake is of particular importance to her because of a unique mysticism about it.

She went on to note she was calm throughout the ordeal, stating she had a feeling the men could be trusted.

“I’d really like to thank those men again for rescuing me,” she said. “My experience could be used as a cautionary tale for other swimmers.”

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