Robert Wudkevich is being hailed as a hero for helping to save a boy from drowning in Cuba, but the Nelson, B.C., man said he wishes he could have done more to save the boy's father.
Yue Liu, 40, of Ottawa, was vacationing at a resort in Varadero, Cuba, with his wife and two children and was playing in shallow waters with his son Connor when an undertow swept them both into deeper water.
Liu's wife Fanyan Bu said her husband tried his best to bring their son back to shore.
"(Connor) couldn't swim back so my husband pushed him to shore, tried to push him and the last thing my husband said to him (was) ‘I cannot save you anymore,’” Bu said on Monday.
Wudkevich, 52, was also vacationing at the resort and was sleeping on the beach when a stranger woke him after noticing the Liu family was in trouble.
There was no flotation device around, so Wudkevich swam 200 meters out to sea.
"When I got there, I saw a young boy. A wave was coming over the top of him, so I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him towards me and I said 'Are you OK?' And all he said was 'I wanna go in now.' So I looked and his father was swept out further," said Wudkevich.
Wudkevich chose to swim the boy back to shore alone, and during that time Liu was taken 400 meters out to sea by a riptide.
Ottawa community raises almost $70K for family
Wudkevich tried to go back out and reach Liu, but couldn't carry on. Others swam out and brought Liu back. But he could not be revived.
Now back in Nelson, Wudkevich said he struggles with his choice.
"Every time I close my eyes, I see it over and over in my head, and I try to rationalize if I did the right thing and if there's more I could have done," he said.
Liu's family lives in Ottawa, where members of Ottawa’s Chinese community and other supporters have already raised almost $70,000 to support the family.