On Saturday, January 12th, our Executive Director, Keiren Tompkins was involved in the dramatic rescue of a 21-year-old man who fell through the ice at Uisge Ban Falls in Baddeck, Cape Breton. Since then, Keiren’s feat of heroism has been captured and communicated on CTV, CBC radio, YouTube, Facebook, and various newspapers including the Cape Breton Post.
Keiren had been out snowshoeing with friends on the trail leading to Uisge Ban Falls. At the end of the trail in view of the falls, they stopped for a brief break. A group of three young men passed them on their way up to the falls. A few minutes later, Keiren and his friend Steve Ross parted from the group and went to join the young men at the falls to take some close-up photographs. They were accompanied by Vince Forrestall who had joined their group minutes earlier.
As they were climbing up the solid ice toward the main waterfalls, the three young men were starting to descend down the steep frozen ice and snow. It appeared as though the main water was on the left-hand side of the falls and one of the three young men, Julien Rouleau, started to carefully come down the right side. Unbeknownst to all, they were standing above a layer of ice and snow which was covering a very rapid and deep part of the brook flowing from the falls. Descending the hill, Julien lost his footing and slid down the ice, cracking through the fairly thin layer of snow and ice and disappearing completely.
Tompkins and Ross quickly ran to the end of the ice, about 80 feet away, to see if the young man would surface there, but to no avail. Tompkins decided they must attempt to locate Julien through the open hole he plunged through, if there was any hope of finding him. Keiren laid flat on the ice, hanging his head into the hole, while Steve held his lower legs to prevent him from going through.
Under the ice, there was a circulating pool of water and at first Keiren saw no sign of Julien at all. But after about 30 seconds, he saw a hand come out of the water and was able to extend his ski pole to make contact with him. Keiren and Steve were able to secure both of Julien’s arms and assisted by Vince and Julien’s friends, Tyler Murphy and Cody Delaney, they were able to pull Julien from the frigid water.
Keiren was still thinking on his feet when he moved everyone immediately away from the area after the rescue, as they were still standing on top of the waterfall and pool. The snow and ice could have given way under them at any time.
They were able to change Julien into some warm and dry clothing and footwear before walking back to their vehicles, which were about 30 minutes away. They all then went to Ross’s cottage in Baddeck to find warmth and share drink and some laughter and jubilation as well as to count their blessings.
This is not the first time Keiren has saved someone’s life. In 1990, our NSGEU Newsletter reported Keiren, who was not yet on staff at the NSGEU but was on the Board of Directors and a long-time activist, took “heroic action to save the life of a scuba diver who got into trouble late in September.”
It seems that Keiren has been in the right place at the right time. As well, he was lucky and wise enough to have acted quickly in these rescues.
We are very proud of our Executive Director, Keiren Tompkins! Our humble hero! Way to go!
Below are the links to a few current news clips.