At least three people helped pull a woman and her two young children from the Yukon River’s icy current in a dramatic rescue last week.
“I was so joyful when we came out of the water because I actually really wondered if we were going to make it,” said Shauna Tierney, who recently moved to Whitehorse with her family.
Tierney was walking the Millennium Trail near the S.S. Klondike with 3-year-old Skye and 2-month-old Flora last Wednesday afternoon.
Skye was sitting unstrapped in a stroller, and Flora was strapped to her mother in a front carrier.
At what she thought was a level piece of pavement, Tierney stopped and let go of the stroller to adjust the straps on the carrier.
When she looked up “about two seconds later”, the stroller was plunging over the edge of the rocky bank, and Skye was thrown into the water.
“Without even thinking about the child on my chest, I just tore down the embankment and I jumped into the water.”
Tierney is not a swimmer, and she fought the current to reach her young boy, who had managed to grab his stroller and was holding onto it for support.
“I remember hearing someone say, ‘We’re coming! We’re coming!’ and then out of the corner of my eye being aware that there were people running down, and just that, all of a sudden things changed in my mind and I thought maybe we were going to make it,” said Tierney.
It took about a minute for her to get to her son, and by that time he had let go of the stroller and his head was going under water.
A small crowd had formed on the bank of the river, maybe four to six people, ready to help with the rescue.
As she struggled back to shore with her son, Tierney suddenly saw her 2-month-old floating face up, close by in the water. It was the first time she had thought of her baby girl since she saw the stroller go over the edge.
“Baby!” she cried to the crowd on shore, pointing at the girl.
Someone was able to reach Flora and pull her out of the water.
Ruth Whitney was one of the people who had come to the rescue.
Whitney was walking with her friend, Darlene Paquet, when she saw Tierney struggling in the water.
Paquet ran to call 911 and Whitney rushed down the loose gravel bank to help the woman.
“Swim, swim, you can make it, you’re just about there, swim, swim,” Whitney recalls yelling to the mother.
The young boy was in front of his exhausted mother, his head going underwater, Whitney remembers.
Whitney and a man each grabbed an arm when Tierney swam close enough.
“It was a death grip,” Whitney said.
A second man came to help and fished the boy out of the water by the back of his shirt.
“Where’s my boot, where’s my boot?,” Whitney recalls the little boy crying. He had lost a rubber boot in the river.
“Where’s my stroller, where’s my stroller?,” he cried.
Still catching her breath in the water, Tierney reassured her son.
“It’s OK, we’ll get more boots, and don’t worry about the stroller,” Whitney recalls her saying to him.
When Tierney was able, Whitney and the first man helped her out of the river.
She had only been out of the water one minute when she heard someone yell, “Your baby’s OK!”
The baby likely stopped breathing while submerged in the water, but revived quickly, said Tierney.
A family from Quebec took Tierney and her children into their nearby motorhome to warm up and wait for the police and ambulance to arrive.
Knowing that the family was safe, Whitney and Paquet left the scene.
Tierney and her family were examined medically and found not to be physically harmed.
“I am just so grateful that this story had a happy ending,” said Whitney.
When the family got home, 3-year-old Skye was still worried about his stroller.
Tierney’s husband rented a canoe that evening and paddled for about four hours until he saw it bobbing slowly down the river.
When Skye woke up the next day, the first thing he asked his dad was, “Did you find my stroller?”
And he was able to say, “Yes, I did!”
Tierney plans to contact City Council about installing a barrier along that section of the trail.
She also plans to sign up for swimming lessons.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at