Brian Gibson rescues a man from the river.

Saskatoon runner interrupts workout to rescue man from river

On the evening of April 27, Brian Gibson was in the middle of a stair workout on Ravine Drive when he noticed a man in distress in the river. Gibson stripped down to his underwear, waded into the frigid water and towed the man to safety.

Brainsport employee Harvey Weber witnessed the river rescue and arranged for Gibson to come into Brainsport last week where he was presented with a new pair of shoes in honour of his heroic efforts.

In Gibson’s own words, here’s how events unfolded last Wednesday.

It was five o’clock and my buddy had texted me earlier in the afternoon and we had pencilled in a workout for that new set of stairs on Ravine Drive and Spadina. I biked over to his house and we drove over there.

We’re kind of going up and down the stairs five or six times and I noticed a fella in the middle of the river with a pedal bike, which was a little odd, for sure. I didn’t think too much of it at first, I thought maybe he’d realize he’d bitten off more than he could chew and would go back the way he came from, but he didn’t and he got into deeper water and he ditched his bike and he was up to his neck and my buddy and I were like, “We should maybe run over there.”

Brian Gibson, left, is presented with a new pair of shoes by Brainsport employee Harvey Weber two days after Gibson paused a workout to save a man from the South Saskatchewan River.
Brian Gibson, left, is presented with a new pair of shoes by Brainsport employee Harvey Weber two days after Gibson paused a workout to save a man from the South Saskatchewan River.

We ran over and it became pretty evident that he was in some trouble at this point. He was so exhausted that he was dropping down to his knees and his head was kind of going underneath the water a bit and then coming back up. I was like “OK, well I suppose I gotta get in here.”

I took off my clothes and I thought maybe I’d have to do some swimming and he was saying “Help me, help me.”

I asked anyone that was on the shore, I yelled out “Does anyone have a belt?” And Harvey had a belt. I figured I could maybe wrap this guy around with a belt and it would be something I could hang on to and, worst-case scenario, we could float out together and wait for the fire department boat to come get us. Thankfully I didn’t have to use that belt.

I got in there and I had to swim for maybe a second and then I could touch the bottom again. Thankfully it wasn’t that deep.

When I got to him, we put our arms around each other and he was completely spent. He was just dead weight on me and I was lucky enough to get back to shore. I got him to the edge and just sat him down.

He was exhausted. He was probably in there for 15 or 20 minutes. I was in there for five and my legs — I’d never seen that kind of colour and veins in my legs ever before. So I can’t imagine being in there for 20 minutes like he probably was.

He didn’t have much for words or anything. He just needed to recover, he just needed to relax and he went off in an ambulance.

To be honest, I wasn’t scared. I grew up on the lakes and have been in the river my whole life. I’m not as strong a swimmer as I used to be and certainly this was a good reminder that I’m not nearly in the shape that I should be. But he needed help and, at that point, I wasn’t too concerned about me. I just wanted to get in the water and see if I can help this guy out. I’m honoured to have been at the right place at the right time.

After, I ended up going back to the stairs. My calves were seizing up and my legs were so tired. We went up (the stairs) one more time. The goal was to do 10 and I think we had done seven — six for sure. We went up one more time and were going to do two more but my calves were just completely seized. My buddy said “Let’s go,” and I was like “Yeah, you’re probably right.” So I told him on the drive home: “Next time we go to that set of stairs we’re doing an extra two.”

This retelling has been edited and condensed.