Edmonton man falls to his death while attempting to rescue his dog from cliff ledge

The family of a 42-year-old man who died Friday while trying to rescue his dog from a cliff ledge west of Edmonton is thanking the Good Samaritans who attempted to save his life.

James Fenwick fell to his death on the banks of the Pembina River after falling about 30 metres

Edmonton resident James Fenwick died on the banks of the Pembina River Friday afternoon while attempting to rescue his dog from a cliff. (James Fenwick/Facebook)

A 42-year-old Edmonton man died Friday afternoon while attempting to rescue his dog from a cliff west of Edmonton.  

James Fenwick had crawled over the cliff ledge on the Pembina River to rescue one of his two beloved dogs before falling about 30 metres down a steep embankment. 

"He loved those dogs," said Fenwick's sister Candace Eden in an interview Monday. "He didn't have kids; those dogs were his babies.

"He made sure she got back up. He didn't leave this world until that task was complete."

'He was gone'

Eden said her brother had just finished setting up for a weekend of camping with friends at the Entwistle RV campground,  located about 100 kilometres west of Edmonton, when he and his girlfriend went for a walk along a riverfront trail.

As they neared the shore, one of Fenwick's dogs, Daytona, disappeared from view. 

The animal became trapped on a narrow ledge about four feet from the top of the rock face. 

Fenwick quickly climbed down to rescue the animal, Eden said. 

"He went into panic mode and he turned to his girlfriend and gave his girlfriend his phone and not even a second thought …he just went," she said. 

"Right away, she could hear him scream 'no' and he was gone. And he was at the bottom." 

His girlfriend and the rest of his friends watched helplessly from the top of the cliff, unable to reach Fenwick who lay "crumpled" along the shore, Eden said.

"It was a very steep cliff,"  Eden said. "There was no way down." 

Within minutes, at least two strangers tubing down the river began tending to Fenwick, she said. 

Eden has already tracked down one of the Good Samaritans through social media but is looking to locate another witness, a man who she has been told reached Fenwick first.

She believes the man may have heard her brother's final words. 

"I just want to know my brother's last moments in life," Eden said Monday, her voice breaking. 

"They didn't have to stop and I want to thank them for being with my brother during his last moments." 

Fenwick was taking his dogs for a swim on the Pembina River when he fell from a cliff on Friday afternoon. (James Fenwick/Facebook)

Two bystanders provided medical aid, including CPR, to the injured man, RCMP Cpl. Susan Richter said in an interview Monday.  

Evansburg RCMP, STARS air ambulance and other emergency crews were called to the scene at around 3:40 p.m., Richter said.

It appears Fenwick lost his footing on the loose rocks, Richter said. His dog was later rescued by an RCMP officer at the scene. 

"It's just an unfortunate accident," Richter said. 

Eden said her brother was a selfless person. He was an avid camper, a doting uncle, and a hardworking salesperson who treated his co-workers at Mayfield Toyota like family.

"He would drop anything in an instant to help anybody without a question. He was loved by so many."

Eden said the family is preparing to host a memorial party for Fenwick, a farewell bash befitting a man who made his mark from the very beginning. 

Eden said Fenwick was born in Edmonton 42 years ago, arriving too quickly for his mother to make it to the hospital on time. 

"He was born on the living room floor," she said. "He came in with a bang ... and he wants to be sent off with a bang." 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?