LAKE WYLIE — Pleasant weather put Rafael Izaguire in a pinch he almost didnt survive. Pleasant weather also kept Ernie Davis close enough to help.
Davis built his home on a Lake Wylie cove in the fall, a couple of years past retiring as a minister in Atlanta. He still spends plenty of time traveling to Georgia and would have been away from home on Feb. 3 except for the weather forecast.
The temperature topped out at 71 degrees that day after weeks of miserable cold, and Davis wanted to enjoy it.
The day before, he said, the lake was ice.
Also hoping to enjoy the cove was Izaguire, a Canadian father of three who moved to Lake Wylie two years ago. He thought hed try paddleboarding. He had his life jacket on and his blade in the water. He fell a couple of times but steadied himself. Then he fell again.
Definitely going to die
On his last fall, unlike his previous mishaps, Izaguire caught his foot in the cable connecting him to the paddleboard. He was just where a cove meets the main channel, off Evergreen Road. The life jacket kept him afloat, but he couldnt free his foot or swim with it caught. Izaguire began yelling for help.
I was just about to give up, he said.
While the air had warmed significantly, the lake hadnt. Izaguire felt hypothermia coming.
I was definitely going to die, he said.
Fortunately, someone was coming.
Davis took note of Izaguire before either hit the water. The men one sitting on his porch, the other standing on water had about a football field of space between them.
Id never seen a paddleboard before, Davis said, so I had my binoculars out, seeing what he was doing.
Then Davis heard screams. Once he figured out what was going on, he put the binoculars down and picked up an oar, heading for his canoe on the shore. Davis reached Izaguire before he sank beneath the surface.
He saved my life, Izaguire said.
The retired minister returned his neighbor to shore, put him in a hot shower and dry clothes, then offered him a warm drink.
He was very, very close to passing out, Davis said. Saving lives has been my business for years, Davis said. I didnt think Id have to keep doing it after I retired.
Even given his lifes vocation, the whole fishers-of-men moment caught Davis by surprise. Maybe it shouldnt have. Intervening for Izaguire marked the third time Davis had helped save a life.
One time, he came upon a boy thrown into a dark roadway by a wreck. Davis carried him off to the shoulder to await an ambulance. Another time Davis drove through a neighborhood where he heard screams of a hysterical mother as her baby lie unresponsive. Davis drove the baby to the hospital, where doctors treated an unknown medication allergy.
After a third go at saving someone, even Davis had to admit he might be a useful person to know.
I try to be, he said.
Izaguire spent as long thanking his hero and returning borrowed clothes in the week after their encounter as Davis did downplaying his role. He wasnt interested in telling neighbors. But Izaguire wants others to know what happened.
And he wants to make it up to Davis.
Both enjoy fishing. Exchanging phone numbers, Izaguire insisted the two take a trip on the lake together maybe on the next pleasant day.
Ill wear my life jacket, Izaguire said.
John Marks • 803-831-8166