Toronto

Stranger saves father, 2 sons from drowning

A St. Catharines, Ont., man who plunged into turbulent waters and rescued a man and his two children from drowning Saturday is still stunned by his own actions.

A St. Catharines, Ont., man who plunged into the Niagara River and rescued a man and his two children from drowningSaturday is stillstunnedby his own actions.

"I don't know how I did it. I don't know how in that type of water I was paddling with one arm and carrying a person. And I don't know how I did it three times. I have no idea," Mathew Vizbulis told CBC Radio.

The 28-year-old man was getting ready to rock climb near the Niagara River when he heard a woman's panicked screams. At first, he wondered if it was a child, but when the screaming persisted he ran to the shoreline.

There, in a narrow passage in the Niagara River called Devil's Hole, he saw three bodies floating face down in a swirling, bubbling eddy.

"They were already incapacitated and completely exhausted from going through the rapid. It was either I jump in or these three people perish within seconds," said Vizbulis.

So, he jumped in and swam 20 feet out to the eddy. As the three cycled in the eddy, Vizbulis grabbed them as they passed by.

Then treading water with one hand, he hauled them with his other hand to the shore, first the father, then the older son and finally the youngest boy.

A British couple had shown up at the scene and helped by pulling the man and two children up on to the shore.

The Brampton, Ont., family had been hiking in the Niagara Glen along the river's shoreline Saturday when the 11-year-old boy slipped on a rock and fell into the river. His 17-year-old brother and his father jumped in to try to save him, then got caught in the eddy.

Niagara Parks Const. John Gayder said he has no doubt the incident would have ended in a triple drowning if Vizbulis had not intervened.

The younger boy was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and the other walked outof the glen witha bit of help.

As for Vizbulis, he only suffered from adrenaline coursing through his veins.

"I had to sit there for almost 40 minutes and I was gritting my teeth because the adrenaline was so strong, and I really couldn't move and I was shaking," he said, adding he couldn't even sleep that night because of the adrenaline.

Vizbulis said the family was quite grateful, and the father tried stuffing money into his hands in thanks for his brave act.

Herefused, saying there's no price on life.

Niagara police say they plan to nominate Vizbulis for a bravery award.