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Six-year-old 'white as a ghost' at sight of mother trapped in frigid water

Six-year-old Jax looked down at his mother just after she fell into the frigid ocean water off the Cheanuh Marina in the Beecher Bay First Nation.
Jennifer Burnside and her son, Jax.

Six-year-old Jax looked down at his mother just after she fell into the frigid ocean water off the Cheanuh Marina in the Beecher Bay First Nation.

Shannon Burnside, 44, was wearing a life-jacket, but, weighed down by heavy boots and with a crab trap tangled around her leg, she was unable to pull herself onto the dock.

What Jax did next likely saved his mother’s life.

Burnside and Jax, who live in Colwood, had been crabbing at the Cheanuh Marina on Dock 7, about 500 metres from the marina office, last weekend.

Burnside decided to throw the crab trap in one last time, and as she took a step back for momentum, her back leg slipped off the side of the dock.

She went under the water and when she resurfaced, she saw the look on Jax’s face. “He was white as a ghost,” she said. “He was absolutely terrified.”

Burnside swam toward the dock but was unable to pull herself up. Jax got down low and tried to reach for his mom, calling out “Mama, Mama,” but Burnside was too far down and she didn’t want her son to fall in.

The crab trap had wrapped around Burnside’s leg and her big suede hiking boots were dragging her down.

She tried to get her elbows onto the dock. “I kept trying and trying and my muscles stopped working,” she said.

Jax got his mom’s cellphone and used the Siri app to first try calling 911, then his father. There was no cellphone coverage and the calls did not go through.

So Burnside tried to keep her voice steady and told Jax: “You’re going to have to go get help, but don’t run. Be calm.”

Jax took off toward the marina office, and Burnside started calling out for help.

Two residents of a home overlooking the marina were trying to figure out what was happening. After they saw Jax running, they spotted Burnside in the water and ran toward her.

Grant Sawyer, a marina employee, also spotted Jax running toward the office and he rushed toward Dock 7.

He arrived first and grabbed Burnside’s hand.

“I don’t have anything else,” she told him. “I can’t hold on anymore.”

Shortly after, Brent Baker, who lives in the nearby home, and another man arrived at the dock.

The three men pulled Burnside to safety.

Jax was waiting in the marina office, being comforted by two women.

Burnside was too weak to walk, so a woman with a boat took her to the gas dock, where Burnside could dry off and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.

Jax, a Grade 1 student at Happy Valley Elementary school, told his mom that he kept tripping and falling on the dock, but each time, he’d pick himself up and didn’t stop running until he reached the office.

The two women in the office told Jax he was the hero of the day.

“They said: ‘How do you spell Jax? H-E-R-O,’ ” Burnside recalled.

Burnside said there was a “split frozen moment” when she was in the water and she saw Jax’s panicked, tear-stained face.

“I looked at him looking down at me and I thought: ‘Is that the last thing I’m going to see?’ I didn’t want that to be the last thing that he saw, so I decided I was going to fight,” she said.

Burnside said Jax has barely left her side in the week since the incident.

“He’s truly an amazing little boy,” she said. "I am extremely proud.”