Steve Kuzak was walking his two dogs along the South Thompson River near Pioneer Park on Friday when one of the canines, Lucy, a Bernese, fell through the ice and into the cold water.
Kuzak tried to rescue his pet, but he, too, fell through the ice.
That spurred passerby Graham Agassiz and others into action, with Agassiz — a world-renowned mountain biker — grabbing a ladder from his vehicle and using it to help rescue Kuzak and Lucy.
The civilian heroes were soon joined by members of Kamloops Fire Rescue, who brought Kuzak to shore.
“My husband is doing really well,” said Nancy Kuchta. “He’s very traumatized by what happened, though, understandably. It was really scary.”
Kuchta said the second dog, a dachshund named Luigi, was spooked and ran free for about an hour before they could catch him.
“Once that cold water hits, you’re almost paralyzed, because you can’t do anything,” said Robb Schoular, Kamloops Fire Rescue’s assistant fire chief of operations. “It’s It’s so cold — it’s a shock. Your hands start to freeze up and you can’t grip anything, especially on water-covered ice.”
Firefighters treated Kuzak for hypothermia on the beach and carried him up the shore to an ambulance.
“He was conscious throughout the entire ordeal,” Schoular said.
“He actually got off our survival craft and stepped over to the stretcher.”
Ten firefighters responded to the accident.
“Ironically enough, we’ve been doing ice rescue training all week at that exact same spot,” Schoular said.
KFR is reminding the public it is not safe to venture out on the ice and is discouraging anyone from attempting to rescue their pets or other animals from a river, advising instead to call in the fire department.
“Don’t go out there. We’ll come and if we determine it’s appropriate and safe to rescue that animal,” Schoular said, noting ice on the river is thinning out this time of year.
Schoular also stressed pets should be kept on a leash at all times, especially near open water and ice.