Janson Chapman was frantically following the sound of his friend’s voice as she tried to keep her head above the churning rapids below Lower Myra River Falls, near Gold River.
Their peaceful hike through the winter wonderland that is Strathcona Provincial Park had turned to panic after Becca Covey slipped on a patch of black ice and plunged into the water.
Chapman’s actions that day, March 6, 2017, saved the life of his friend and now fiancée, and earned him a Decoration for Bravery awarded by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette during a ceremony on Wednesday at Government House.
Covey knows that Chapman won’t admit that he’s a hero, but said she owes her life to him.
“The moment she slipped in, I thought that was it,” said Chapman, a 22-year-old from Colwood who works as a greenskeeper at Bear Mountain Resort.
“I just did what needed to be done.”
After falling in the water, Covey, a 21-year-old veterinary assistant, grabbed onto a log and called out for help.
Chapman climbed down an icy ledge and found a flat surface about 10 feet above Covey.
He could see that farther down the river, there was a series of three or four waterfalls.
“So it was either get her out here or the outcome won’t be good at the end.”
Despite an injured hip and leg from her 50-foot fall down the rock face, Covey was able to stand on the log and grab the jacket Chapman was dangling.
He tried to pull her up but the jacket started to rip.
Chapman dug his foot into a crevice and hung his upper body over the ledge.
Covey braced herself on a rock and reached for Chapman’s fingers.
Finally, they reached each other.
Chapman, who is about 160 pounds, was able to lift up the 100-pound Covey.
“I guess the adrenalin was fuelling me at the moment,” he said.
The two sat on the ledge, hugged and cried into each other’s necks.
“He said: ‘I love you so much,’ ” Covey said.
Covey couldn’t walk so Chapman piggy-backed her through snow for 40 minutes until they reached their car.
He drove her to a hospital.
A month later, the two started dating and by November they were engaged.
“It really goes to teach you how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away,” Chapman said.
Payette also presented the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Meritorious Service Decorations (civil division), Decorations for Bravery, the Polar Medal and the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. Among the recipients from Greater Victoria:
• Induction into the Order of Canada: Basketball legend Kathy Shields, who has tirelessly promoted women’s basketball in Canada. More on page B4.
• Meritorious Service Decoration: Historian Merna Forster, in recognition of her campaign to have notable women featured on Canadian banknotes.
Artist Carey Newman (Ha-yalth-kingeme), for creation of The Witness Blanket to help with reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
Cherie Elizabeth Davidson, founder of Island Heart to Heart, which educates and supports cardiac patients and their families.
> For a full list of award recipients and descriptions of their accomplishments, go to timescolonist.com/more