B.C. man saves boy from drowning in Cuba, struggles with not saving father
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, March 26, 2014 8:42AM EDT
A B.C. man who saved an Ottawa boy from drowning while on holiday in Cuba said he struggles with the fact that he couldn't do more to save the boy's father.
Robert Wudkevich, or Woody, as he is known back home in Nelson, B.C., was on the beach in Varadero, Cuba last Wednesday when he heard Ottawa resident Yue Liu's cries for help.
Liu and his seven-year-old son, Connor, were in the shallow water when a massive wave dragged them further out into deeper waters.
"Connor was the closest one to me; he was on his back, but he was not doing very good at all. He had stopped kicking," Wudkevich told CTV Ottawa. "And he was going just under the wave and I managed to grab him … and I pulled him toward me."
Wudkevich was able to carry the boy to shore, but when he went back to the water, he saw that Liu had been carried further out. According to witnesses, Liu had been holding his son’s head above water before the boy was taken to safety.
"When I swam out as far as I could… I couldn't even see him… he was way out," he said.
Wudkevich said he spoke with Liu's wife on the beach, and tried to offer some words of support.
"I said that he would be OK, that's all I could tell her," he said.
Lifeguards had arrived on the scene and eventually Liu was pulled out of the water. But efforts to resuscitate him were not successful.
In response to the death of the 40-year-old father of two, Ottawa's Chinese community is now raising money to help bring Liu's body home and pay for funeral costs.
Liu's wife, Fanyan Bu, said she's still in shock by the loss of her husband.
"I miss him a lot. Every time I see his picture I want to cry," she said.
As for Wudkevich, he said it's been "tough" knowing he couldn't save Liu.
"I was grateful I was able to save Connor, I'm just sad that I couldn't save his dad. That's the tough part," he said. "I know I'm not a hero, I just was in the right place."
Wudkevich said after the incident, his family found it difficult to return to the beach during their holiday. They eventually returned on the day before they left Cuba.
"We went down to the beach and said a prayer for him and his family," he said.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Natalie Pierosara