British Columbia

Dramatic rescue of dog 'no problem' for Qualicum Beach man

Tim Bell was rounding a corner on the Alberni Highway when he saw an SUV floating in Cameron Lake. Bell didn't hesitate to dive in and save a dog trapped inside, but coming forward for recognition was another thing.

Bashful rescuer comes forward 10 days after saving dog from sinking SUV

Berkeley was trapped inside a sinking vehicle on Oct. 8, 2016, and was pulled to safety by a stranger passing by. (CHEK News)

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tim Bell was rounding a corner on the Alberni Highway when he saw Samantha Patterson's SUV floating in the waters of Cameron Lake.

Just minutes before, Patterson's vehicle had hydroplaned on a slippery road. She'd then swerved to miss a logging truck and plunged into the water. 

She had managed to squeeze out a window and get to shore, but her chocolate Labrador, Berkeley, was still trapped inside.

"I didn't think about any danger to me," Bell said Tuesday. "My first thought was okay, there's 15 feet of water, [the vehicle] is about 20-25 feet out from shore, no problem."

Bell, a fit log-home builder from Qualicum Beach, assured Patterson he would save the dog.

It took him three tries, as the SUV kept sinking further below the lake's surface.

Samantha Patterson managed to escape from her vehicle — barely visible in this photo — after it veered off the Alberni Highway into Cameron Lake. Her dog, Berkeley, remained trapped inside. (CHEK News)

"I went to go reach in and get the dog, but the dog didn't know me. So of course it panics and it runs to the far side of the SUV," Bell said.

"So I'm actually leaning through the window," Bell said. "I've got the dog in my hands and I'm starting to come out, and then the front end dropped and water started rushing in and ripped the dog out of my hands."

He opened a door of the vehicle and tried again, with the same result.

With the front of the SUV now submerged, he tried the release on the hatchback and it opened, freeing the dog.

"I went back to shore and made sure everybody was okay," Bell said. "Got in my car and left."

Tim Bell was driving to Port Alberni to visit a friend when he came upon an SUV floating in Cameron Lake with a dog trapped inside. (Facebook)

In the days that followed, Patterson's grateful family members tried to find the anonymous "red-headed Port Alberni-area man" in a white Chevy pickup who dove into the lake to save a stranger's pet.

Bell at first declined to respond, but finally relented to pressure from friends and co-workers and spoke with the Pattersons by phone.

Samantha's father Alan Patterson said his daughter is out of hospital following the Oct. 8 accident.

He said she is recovering but still has pain in her back, neck, shoulder and knees from the impact and her escape.

Meanwhile Berkeley the dog is eating well and running around, Patterson said, "like most Labradors."