/Horseshoe Lake heroes save neighbour's life 
The view from the cottage Paul Tantakis built in the 1970s. /Submitted photo

Horseshoe Lake heroes save neighbour's life 

By Sue Tiffin

On July 4 just after dinner Justin Bragg was sitting out on hisneighbour Tyler Eames’s dock when they saw another cottage neighbourPaul Tantakis head into Horseshoe Lake for a swim. Looking down theshoreline Justin could see his parents sitting outside at their cottage next to the Tantakis place and Dan Gerrard on his deck eating dinnernext to Eames’s cottage. Paul had built his Minden cottage in the early’70s and John Bragg Justin’s dad had been cottaging next door sincehe himself was a kid so the little community along the stretch ofcottages was well-known to each other. It wasn’t uncommon for the80-year-old Paul to go for a swim along with his pool noodle.

The view from the Tantakis cottage on Horseshoe Lake in Minden.

“Welooked away and started talking and then when we looked back wedidn’t see him” Justin told the Minden Times. “My dad was next door tohim and he was sitting outside with my mom. He yelled he just said‘help’ and then he yelled my name … I was up before my dad yelledbecause I knew something was wrong. But as soon as my dad yelled itjust kind of clicked in and I took off.”
It was Justin’s instinct torun taking off along the rocks through the forest between theproperties where he jumped into the water to join his dad and Gerrard.

“It was shock” said Justin. “I was talking to my neighbour and he saidyou either do one of two things. You never know what it’s like until you get into that situation. You strive or you kind of hide. And I guessmy I don’t know what to say but my mind just kicked into ‘Oh my God I have to do something.’ … I didn’t even know I could run that fastuntil something like that happened.”

The men formed a triangle in the water looking for Paul along the bottom and quickly found him.
“We got him out” said Justin. “I was the one who had found him in thewater. He went right to the bottom. He sunk. I pulled him up and threwhim over my shoulder.”
Gerrard helped Justin bring Paul to a boatlaunch where Justin’s girlfriend Brittany Tait began CPR. The twowere up at the cottage for the weekend relaxing from work – Justin as acarpenter Tait as a registered nurse at a long-term care home in PortHope. When Tait tired she directed the men to carry on with CPRperformed for about 10 minutes.

Brittany Tait and Justin Bragg responded quickly after Tantakis slipped under the water. Bragg jumped into the water to pull him to shore and Tait a nurse initiated CPR and directed other neighbours through the process.

“The ambulance guys were amazing”said Justin of paramedics Aaron Turner and Matt Barr. “They got there in great time … They did an amazing job.”

Paul was airlifted to Orillia and then taken closer to home to a hospital in Scarborough.

Mark Tantakis Paul’s son said he speaks to his dad every day and hadspoken to him only hours earlier from Pickering that day. Though he didworry about the risk of his dad potentially falling or hurting himselfin some way while visiting the cottage alone he didn’t expect the callfrom his neighbour telling him his dad had been taken to the hospital.The cause of Paul’s mishap in the water is still unknown.

“He brokehis back last August actually so he’s still pretty weak from that” he said. “That was quite something to have to recover from at his age. Hewas very weak and probably shouldn’t have been in the water. I think itwas just a case of he got himself into a little bit of trouble andwasn’t strong enough to right himself.”

Though Paul’s medical teamwere concerned about the potential for brain damage Mark said his dadseems to be feeling fine upon waking up and being extubated.
“Hisvoice was very very faint at first for the first day because he wason the vent for so long” said Mark. “It was hard for him to say much.”
His dad’s recovery he said has been “quite remarkable.”
“I assumed there was trauma to his brain because he wasn’t veryresponsive but once the vent came out and he was able to stay breathing on his own he was completely different and quite responsive” saidMark. “He was asking for food right away so I knew he couldn’t be inthat bad of a state if you’re hungry.”

Paul Tantakis 80 experienced difficulty when going for a swim in Horseshoe Lake in Minden on July 4 but was pulled to safety and resuscitated by long-time neighbours who had seen him slip under the water.

Mark said though it’sunlikely his dad will go out swimming by himself again he’ll want toget back to the cottage that’s been part of his life for more than fourdecades as soon as possible.

“The cottage that’s his life up there so he for sure will want to go up there as soon as he can same way aswhat happened last year with his back” he said. “It took him manymonths to recover from his back and as soon as he was well enough hewas saying ‘I want to see my cottage.’ So I’m sure he’ll be saying thesame thing again.”
Mark is grateful for those who helped his dad through the entire ordeal from the water through to the hospitals.
“I can imagine it was a Saturday there were lots of people thereeverybody says it was quite the event that took place with everybodyhelping out” he said. “Literally the way that everybody responded soquickly and they found him it wasn’t like he was under water for 10minutes they found him quick … For [emergency services] to show upwhen they did it was a perfect job by everybody involved really.”

Like Justin he acknowledges the timing of the crisis.
“It was very fortunate. If it was a Tuesday instead of a Saturday it would have been a totally different story.”
Justin said he was thrilled to hear that Paul was recovering and off the vent a couple of weeks after the accident having worried about him eachday.

“It turned out the best way” he said. “I think after thatsituation it’s always been a family up there our cottages we’vealways grown up together and hung out I think this has brought usreally closer.”
Though Justin is humble about his part in the storyacknowledging several times the group effort rather than simply hisrole Mark said everyone involved in saving his dad should be applauded.
“There’s not a lot of good stuff going on right now” he said ofhis reason for reaching out to the paper. “… I’d like some recognition for Justin for pulling him out and really everybody that helped out.They deserve to be recognized.”