'She saved his life': Calgary woman rescues hypothermic man from Glenmore Reservoir

Firefighters say a Calgary woman went "above and beyond" when she ventured into the Glenmore Reservoir early Tuesday morning and rescued a man floating in the water who otherwise may have gone unnoticed and drowned.

Fire department plans to nominate Margaret Bell for formal award as part of city's Beyond The Call program

Margaret Bell, 55, rescued a man who was stranded in the Glenmore Reservoir beside a boat he had apparently fallen out of Tuesday. (Silvana Benolich/CBC)

Firefighters say Margaret Bell went "above and beyond" when she ventured into the Glenmore Reservoir early Tuesday morning and rescued a man struggling in the water who otherwise may have gone unnoticed and drowned.

For Bell, though, there was no question about what needed to be done.

"I don't think I would have been able to live with myself if I wouldn't have helped him," she said.

"I just said, you have to do it. You can't just walk by."

Bell, who lives in the southwest community of Lakeview, had been out for a jog near the reservoir at about 7 a.m. when she noticed a boat on the water near the Calgary Canoe Club.

The Calgary Canoe Club is on the west side of the Glenmore Reservoir's north arm. (Google Maps)

She thought it was unusual, so she went to investigate. She spotted what she initially thought was a beaver floating next to it. She then realized it was a person and she sprung into action.

"I talked to myself before I got in the water and told myself I can do this. I'm able to swim and I know something about life saving," she said.

"And then I just got in the water. It was cold."

'He was very hypothermic'

Bell isn't sure how far she swam to the man, who was struggling to stay afloat and trying without success to swim his way to shore on his own.

When she reached him, she told him to hold on to her jacket as she swam them both back to shore, where she tried to keep him warm.

"He was very hypothermic," she said. "He was profusely shaking. His lips were quite discoloured."

She found a passerby and asked them to call 911.

She also tried to talk to him to figure out what had happened and if there was anyone else in the water, but said the man was hard to understand.

"I asked him his name. He did mumble it. I don't honestly remember what his name is," Bell said. "And then I asked him where he's from. And he said he's from Bosnia."

Using his fingers, the man communicated that he was 24 years old. He told her he had "just found the boat" but couldn't explain why he had no oars or how he ended up in the water.

He said he had been drinking some beers and seemed to express that he had been out on the reservoir all night.

'She saved his life'

The man was taken to Rockyview General Hospital, where he was listed in stable, non-life-threatening condition.

"I think she saved his life," Calgary Fire Department spokesperson Carol Henke said of Bell's actions.

"She made a split-second decision to help. She knew her skills and abilities and she did the right thing. I mean, she made the difference in this young man's life."

The fire department continued to search the area later Tuesday morning, to make sure no one else was also in the water.

Henke said the boat did not belong to the man.

"Whose boat it is and the circumstances around how he obtained the boat to take it for a ride on the reservoir, I don't have those details," she said.

The fire department plans to nominate the woman for an award as part of the city's Beyond The Call program. It recognizes citizens for extraordinary and brave actions in dangerous circumstances.

"She really went above and beyond, and thankfully this man has another chance," Henke said.

With files from Monty Kruger