Pilot Chris Cameron has told the tale of his Canada Day rescue many times since July.
"I've always been the type that doesn't tell stories too often," Cameron said over the phone from work while waiting for fog to lift. "I don't mind, but I don't go out seeking attention for it either."
That might be true, but the 31-year-old Harbour Air pilot was front and centre at the Canadian Safe Boating Council awards on Jan. 12 where he was awarded the Stearns Rescue of the Year.
"I found out (about the award) at the Harbour Air Christmas party, which was in early December," he said. "I guess Harbour Air knew about it and saved it as a bit of an announcement."
Back on July 1, Cameron was in the pilot seat of a single-engine floatplane on Green Lake in Whistler, about to fly 10 passengers to Vancouver, when he noticed a capsized canoe. At first, he thought it was a harmless tip-over, but then he spotted three people flailing in the water and realized something was seriously wrong.
"I could see pretty quickly that one guy had broken away from the boat. He started panicking and tried to swim to shore, but it was quite a long distance," Cameron said.
He could see all three struggling, but one man who was attempting to tread water kept sliding beneath the surface. The water in the glacier-fed lake was dangerously cold, despite the scorching heat.
"I jumped in the lake earlier that day, too," he said. "That day it was 34 degrees, but I could only stay in for about five or 10 seconds. It was probably a lot colder closer to the river mouth."
Jumping into action, Cameron radioed into the office asking someone to bring out the Harbour Air boat to the canoeists while he taxied over to the group in the plane.
"I pulled up beside the guy having the most trouble," he recalled. "His friend caught up and pulled himself onto the plane. The other guy was having trouble, so I told his friend to pull him up. I looked back to see where the third person was and she had been picked up by the boat."
All three were met by an ambulance on shore and taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre, where they were treated for hypothermia.
"I got a thank you letter from them after the fact," Cameron said. "I got an email forwarded to me from Harbour Air from the parents of the one guy (who was in the most danger) who had gone to the hospital. It was really nice."
Months later, someone contacted him about a nomination for the Rescue of the Year award, but he brushed it off.
"I didn't pay much attention to it," he said. "I knew somebody had been talking about it, but I guess they decided to talk to Harbour Air because I was nonchalant about it."
At the award ceremony last Sunday in Toronto, Cameron was honoured with a slideshow chronicling his pilot career, which began when he got his private license in 1999. He brought his mom, sister and her boyfriend to the event.
"It was cool," he said. "One of the guys for the award ceremony put together a PowerPoint. It was kind of interesting ó last year, the person who won the same award was a boater who rescued a seaplane pilot who had crashed on the lake. This year, it was the other way around."
The award ceremony also recognized people and companies that promote boating safety, advocate for the marine environment and contribute to the industry.