'Good-hearted' cyclists rescue elderly man who fell in Ottawa River

A man in his 80s who fell into the Ottawa River while feeding birds Saturday morning was rescued by a pair of quick-thinking cyclists.

Man was fortunate cyclists came by when they did, paramedics say

Emergency crews pull a man out of the Ottawa River on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (Marc Messier/Ottawa Fire)

An 83-year-old man was rescued from the Ottawa River by a pair of sharp-eyed cyclists after he slipped and fell in while feeding the birds Saturday morning, paramedics say.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Ottawa Fire Services received reports that a man had fallen into the water along the Sir George Étienne Cartier Parkway near Shefford Road.

Mark Wheeler and Alyssa Mellon were cycling by when they spotted the man in the river.

"I noticed his head poking out of the water," said Wheeler. "Thought it was a pretty brave guy, swimming in October."

Dragged out by current

Wheeler and Mellon quickly realized something was wrong, so they circled back and called out to the man — now floating about 10 metres off the shore, they said, and being dragged along by the current — to see if he was all right. 

When the man replied that he wasn't, Wheeler descended a rocky embankment from the bike path into in the water and swam out to him, while his wife stayed on the shore and called 911.

As a group of people waited with Mellon, ready to help, Wheeler managed to get the man back to dry ground.

"He was cold, he couldn't stand up for himself," said Wheeler.

'Good-hearted bystanders'

Fire crews arrived and helped bring Wheeler and the man up the approximately four-and-a-half-metre embankment back to the bike path.

They were both treated for hypothermia and the 83-year-old man was taken to hospital in serious but stable condition, said Rob Mitchell, superintendent of operations with the Ottawa Paramedic Service.

Had Wheeler and Mellon not cycled by at that moment, things could've turned out much differently, Mitchell said.

"Given his age, he's quite fortunate someone saw him go in when he did, very fortunate that some good-hearted bystanders were nearby," he said.

Mellon said she and her husband are hoping the man fully recovers.

"We do really hope that he's going to be okay," she said. "And that he keeps getting to feed the birds."


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