Sask. band Bombargo captures N.S. ocean tragedy in song

The mother of a woman who died while rescuing children from a riptide says she can never thank the songwriter enough for memorializing her daughter's heroism.

Michelle Curtis died rescuing children at Broad Cove Beach

Broad Cove beach, where Michelle Curtis died in August 2015 trying to save several children from a riptide. (CBC)
It was a hot day two years ago in Cape Breton, N.S., when the Curtis children, and many others too, went for a swim in the ocean, only to be pulled out to sea by a relentless riptide.
Michelle Curtis died trying to save several children from a riptide at Broad Cove beach in Cape Breton in 2015. (

Michelle Curtis, a strong swimmer, took to the water to rescue the children.

It was a moment in time now forever captured in song by Saskatoon band Bombargo.

"That's the way she lived her life: she was always helping people, and people came first," recalled Michelle Curtis's mother, Diane White, in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Curtis successfully fought the riptide, releasing her children from its deadly grip and returning them safely to the beach, but there were others out there.

Curtis dove back into the ocean to try again.

She saved more children, but on her return back to the beach said "I'm not OK." She collapsed and died.

Video released

"It's one of the saddest stories I have ever heard in my life," said Bombargo's Nathan Thoen.  

Thoen was visiting the area in the days following the tragedy, and could not think about Michelle's act of bravery without being overcome with emotion.

When Thoen returned to Saskatoon to make a new record with his band, they were jamming one day and created an aural landscape that captured the vibe of the ocean.

Thoen began writing the lyrics for Heroes Never Die.

"They fell out; it felt like the song was writing itself."

White said she is grateful to the songwriter. 

"I play the song every day," she said.

"I can never thank him enough for this song. It just brings it back. It is heart wrenching, there is no question. Anybody who hears that song will feel that way."

Nathan Thoen was so moved by the Michelle Curtis's act of bravery, that he returned home to Saskatoon to write a song about it. (CBC)

Song a loving tribute

The song is out now on Bombargo's latest record.

"I was really worried and eager to hear her thoughts because I knew it was such a sensitive song, especially most importantly for her and her family," said Thoen.

"When I heard that she was touched by it we were really thankful for that."

The video for Heroes Never Die is being released to the public Monday.

Michelle Curtis has been posthumously recognized as a hero for saving children on the beach that hot day.    

with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning