Whitehorse Daily Star

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HELP AT HAND – Emergency personnel attend to the man pulled out of the Yukon River. Photo by ARTHUR MITCHELL

‘I’m just glad it turned out the way it did’

Thursday was just another day on the job for Scott McDougall.

By Tim Giilck on July 23, 2021

Thursday was just another day on the job for Scott McDougall.

OK – maybe not so much.

McDougall owns the Kanoe People business along the Yukon River near Strickland Street. He unexpectedly found himself on the river Thursday afternoon in an emergency situation.

McDougall was in the store at around 1 p.m. when two people burst in, shouting there was a man in the river needing to be rescued.

He ran for the canoes kept along the river by the store and hopped in, without even considering his options.

He soon saw a man struggling in the water.

He said he kept calling to him, reassuring him help was on the way.

He estimated he was still about 75 feet away when the man slipped under the surface.

McDougall managed to locate him and hauled him halfway into his canoe. The man roused slightly, and started to cling to the gunwales.

“I grabbed him very securely. I heard him gurgle a bit.

“I didn’t even try to get him all the way in, because I didn’t want to go into the water,” McDougall said.

He then began to manoeuvre the canoe toward shore. That proved more difficult than usual because of the extra weight and the torrential current at the moment.

McDougall said he was met by the RCMP rescue boat just a few feet from where he planned to land.

“They got there really fast,” McDougall said.

The man he had rescued was still clinging to the boat, but was now “unconscious but breathing,” McDougall said.

The RCMP took over from there and began treating the man, who was subsequently taken to Whitehorse General Hospital.

McDougall said he spoke with the police perhaps four minutes later and asked how the man was faring.

“Still breathing but unconscious,” he was told.

McDougall said he wasn’t intimidated by the conditions. “The river’s always fast.”

The most difficult part was finding a suitable place to land. All the usual pullout sites are now submerged, and the shore is full of debris and obstacles, McDougall noted.

“I was just focused on getting to him and getting him out,” he said.

Despite what people would say, McDougall said, “I’m not a hero. I’m just glad it turned out the way it did.”

He’s had to pull a few other people out of the river over the years, he added.

Afterward, he returned to work as if it was any other day.

Except for one thing.

As he spoke with the Star at 3 pm, McDougall suddenly remembered he hadn’t had lunch.

“That’s where I’m going next,” he said.

“The courage displayed by Mr. Scott McDougall of Kanoe People was outstanding, and the response of the public and our members and public safety partners was nothing short of remarkable,” Insp. Lyndsay Ellis of the Whitehorse RCMP said today. “The RCMP in Yukon have been fully engaged this summer with water rescues, and namely in the Whitehorse detachment area. These rescues have been in addition to the calls for service we receive daily to provide essential core policing services to Yukoners and visitors alike. I urge everyone to use caution around the waterways – this year in particular has posed danger with high and swift moving water.”

Comments (5)

Up 35 Down 1

Douglas Martens on Jul 24, 2021 at 3:27 pm

Way to go Scott! Kudos!

Up 46 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jul 24, 2021 at 10:02 am

Well done Mr. McDougall! BRAVO!

Up 53 Down 4

Arthur Mitchell on Jul 23, 2021 at 6:24 pm

I’m so glad things turned out as they did and the victim survived. But despite his disclaimers, Scott McDougall absolutely was a hero yesterday. I witnessed his extraordinary skill and courage, while he hung on to the victim with one hand and paddled furiously with a paddle in his other hand to skillfully control his canoe as he headed to shore, where he’d almost reached when the RCMP rescue boat arrived to pitch in and complete this team effort rescue. I was on a fourth floor balcony with no chance to help and could only take photos and pray for Scott’s success. As a former volunteer firefighter and ambulance attendant, I know that Scott gave no thought for his own safety during his response. But to anyone who witnessed this rescue, he was truly heroic.

Up 51 Down 3

donaSun on Jul 23, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Well of course Scott would say he is not a Hero.... that guy saves lives everyday... Scott you not only saved this man's life - you saved what could have been many many broken hearts!! Hero!!

Up 37 Down 4

Jeff Donaldson on Jul 23, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Good on ya!

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