'I did it for the fish': Yukon man takes an icy swim to help pull old car out of river

Shane Edwards of Dawson City saw an old car about to be swept downstream in the rising Yukon River. He jumped into action, and ended up taking a frigid swim.

Shane Edwards says the car might have been swept down the rising river, and he had to act fast

Shane Edwards, seen here in winter with Dawson City below, says he's not the kind of guy to sit around when there's a job to do. On Thursday, he took a frigid swim to help save an old car from being swept down the Yukon River. (Submitted by Shane Edwards)

Shane Edwards wasn't planning on going for a swim in the Yukon River on Thursday, especially since it was still covered in ice that very morning.

But the Dawson City man couldn't help himself — he saw a job to do, and he did it.

"I did it for the fish," he told CBC. "I didn't do it for the car."

The car was an old Honda Civic that was seemingly abandoned beside the ferry landing in Dawson City. When the river ice suddenly broke on Thursday — a spectacular spring tradition in Dawson — the old junker seemed destined to be swept downstream with all that ice.

That's when Edwards rolled up.

"I'm like, what is everyone taking pictures of, on the side, on the bank? And I looked down and there's this little Civic sitting there," he recalled.

 "So I went down to the car and noticed there was like a 50-foot hydrocarbon slick — so a bunch of oil and gas and everything like that — going into the river. And yeah, I wasn't going to stand by and let that happen."

Edwards says the car seems to have been abandoned at the river's edge. When the river ice broke on Thursday, is was quickly submerged in the rising water. (Submitted by Shane Edwards)

He started working the phone, trying different organizations in town that might have a truck with a winch to pull the car out of the rising water. He says he quickly grew frustrated, as people talked about insurance liability and other reasons to not get involved.

"I was like, 'yeah, I don't really care about that. It's more about the fish, and you know, our natural habitat,'" he recalled.

"Everyone was like hemming and hawing [on] all the protocol and all that. And we had a moment to act, and we had to act right away."

Finally, he managed to get some help from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, which offered a truck with a winch. A couple of staff — Dave and another Shane — came along to help out.

"Two Shanes together, we always get stuff done!" Edwards joked.

Edwards waded in to the brown, frigid water to attach the chain to the car that was now half-submerged. That was easier said than done — and so soon enough, he was swimming.

"I couldn't find anything to hook on. So I did the dive. Yeah, I dove under the car," he said.

"And then as I was swimming out, I found this like little hook that just happened to be on it. And I hooked [it] up to that and pulled the chain straight. And then we got her outta there."

The car was dragged up on to the dry bank, and Edwards got into some dry clothes. He's a volunteer firefighter so he says he always has an extra set of clothes in his car. Later, back home, he'd warm up with a long shower and some hot coffee.

Edwards says he's glad he was able to help. He says he's not the kind to sit idly by.

"I've never been that person, unfortunately — sometimes I put myself through hell and back. But I always get the job done at least." 

Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Dave White