Heroics and Heartbreak at Alberta Campground

August 4, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

A couple are being called heroes after helping at Cavan Lake in southeast Alberta on Saturday (July 30) when a time of fun in kayaks on the water turned tragic for a Redcliff, Alberta, family – the Sheppards.

Myron Sulz and Danette Jacobs had just finished supper in the campground when they responded to screams coming from the lake and could see kayaks and people in the water, the Medicine Hat News reported.

“My life has totally changed since Saturday,” said Jacobs, on the verge of tears.

When they reached the lake shore around 6:30 p.m., another couple were already trying to find Chris Sheppard, 33, who had not surfaced from the water.

“They were taking turns diving down until they found him,” said Sulz.

“They kept screaming for help, but I don’t swim,” said Sulz, tearfully wishing he could have done more. He estimates the other couple were focussing their search perhaps 20 or 25 feet from shore.

They brought the man to the surface and, exhausted from the search, had difficulty bringing him in.

As soon as Sulz felt sure he’d be able to walk out to them in the water, he did.

“They were exhausted. I began doing chest compressions until they could take over,” he explained. “Someone phoned 9-1-1 and were giving instructions from the operator.”

Sulz and Jacobs say the real heroes are that young couple who dived down repeatedly until they found Chris. (The News asked Redcliff RCMP to put a reporter in contact with the couple but that has not been successful yet.)

Jacobs helped another male, who’d been in one of two kayaks with Kaylea Sheppard, Chris’ wife and their daughters Kori, 6 and Gracie, 3.

“He was in shock,” said Jacobs with tears coursing down her cheeks.

“I had his head in my lap and was told to keep him alert,” said Jacobs.

Media reports on Tuesday stated that the young father swam out to rescue one of the children after both kayaks overturned but the details could not be confirmed by The News.

Efforts to revive Sheppard on the shore were not successful.

“People were crying and I kept telling his wife that an ambulance was on the way,” said Jacobs.

A police officer had taken Kaylea aside and another asked Sulz and Jacobs to take the children away.

“The 3-year-old took my hand and said, ‘Daddy has died,'” said Jacobs, breaking into tears.

The children climbed into a little wagon Jacobs had at her campsite and enjoyed some rides. They had fudgesicles and spent time at the playground until the police said the children could return to their own campsite.

“Their mother came and gave me a big hug and thanked me,” said Jacobs. “I will never forget her screams though.”

Murray Schnell was the camper right next door to the two spaces occupied by the Sheppards and another relative. He and residents Dennis Lanz and Everett MacKenzie also said it was Kaylea’s haunting screams they can still hear three days later.

“This couple (Jacobs and Sulz) deserve a lot of credit for helping the victim and for all they did for the young children,” said Lanz.

It’s hard to make sense of the turn of events and why it ended so tragically. Lanz says the lake is not always what it seems.

“The depth of the water changes all over and there are long weeds in the water you’d have to contend with if you’re swimming,” said Lanz.

Schnell says the Sheppards left Cavan Lake with their campers on Saturday night.


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