KAMLOOPS, B.C. - An oldtimers hockey team hit the ice as darkness fell Wednesday, but they weren't chasing a puck.
The Old Dogs jumped into action and probably saved the lives of a woman and two dogs after they plunged into the water from a ledge of ice along the Thompson River.
Team members were having a few beers with a clear view of the riverfront a stone's throw away when they saw the woman and the dogs break through the ice.
"We were just trying to help the young lady out of the river when she went in," Bert Kant told the Kamloops Daily News while drying out after his January dip.
"I missed the Polar Bear Swim," he quipped, adding "We can laugh because everything is OK."
Kathryn Easton was walking her brother's dog along the shore when the animal fell into the river. With another, smaller dog on her shoulders, she tried to rescue the canine on her own.
"We watched her go down," said Yvonne Johnson, another witness.
"That water's cold and it's running. It could have been a catastrophe."
Knowing the risks of compounding the crisis — the ice is unstable, especially at its outer edges — they seized a flag and used the pole to extend their reach.
"You can see where it opened up," said Paul Bourassa, another team member. "We thought she was trying to get the dog. In fact, she was in trouble. She's lucky, that woman."
Though air temperatures have warmed slightly, the water remains extremely cold. Someone immersed in the river wouldn't have long before they lost strength.
"It's not a shock when you need to do something," said Bob Reid, one of the rescuers who got wet.
"She would have drowned, no question," added teammate Tom Blair.
By the time police arrived, all were safely ashore.
Paramedics checked Easton's vitals after the incident and she was reported to be OK. Wrapped in a blanket in the back of a police car, she wanted to say thanks to her rescuers.
(Kamloops Daily News)