‘He didn’t hesitate for a moment’: Hero groom saves drowning boy during wedding photo shoot
Brittany and Clayton Cook were taking full advantage of the warm September weather on their wedding day, posing for pictures at Victoria Park in London, Ontario, after their ceremony. As often happens, the spectacle of the bride and groom drew the attention of three children, who excitedly watched the photo shoot. But while Brittany posed for a couple of solo pics, Clay suddenly noticed something was wrong.
“I saw the kids around, and there were three of them, and then there were two, so I thought, ‘I better just double-check to make sure all the kids were OK,’” he recounts to Yahoo Lifestyle. “When I went over there, he was struggling a bit, so I tried to just get him out of there. I jumped down, reached as far as I could and plucked him out.”
Clay’s casual retelling doesn’t quite match up to what it looked like to Brittany and their photographer Darren Hatt, who were rather startled to see the groom jump into action.
“The bride shouted out, pointed toward the river and just as soon as I’d turned around, Clayton was already in the water and scooped up this kid and planted him back on the ground,” Hatt tells Yahoo. “That’s a testament to how quickly he could move. … He didn’t hesitate for a moment or think about the fancy suit he was in. He just went straight for it.”
The boy, who was about 6 to 8 years old, was soaking wet and very shook up. Brittany said it was clear that he couldn’t swim or touch the ground where he was. Lucky for Clay’s fancy suit, he was able to stand on a rock ledge and pull the boy to safety without having to dive in.
“He’s never needed to save someone before, but it didn’t surprise me whatsoever that he didn’t give a second thought to it,” Brittany says.
Afterwards, she explains, her new husband was a little distracted by what had happened — not to mention a bit damp — so they abandoned the photo shoot and made their way to their reception, where her brother, the emcee, told everyone what had happened before they made their grand entrance.
“He was making jokes earlier, so I don’t know if people were still thinking this was a joke,” Brittany says. Eventually, everyone’s attention returned to celebrating their marriage. The next day, however, the focus was back on Clay’s heroics, because Hatt caught the incident on camera and posted photos to his Facebook, where they drew international attention almost immediately.
For his part, Clay says he was simply “in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.” He thought it was just going to be a cool story he’d tell a few friends.
But Hatt says he understands why the story went viral: “I think people are pretty starved for a good story about decent people doing decent things.” Unfortunately, some readers were also quick to make negative comments about the boy’s parents. “It’s true we didn’t see the parents there, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there,” Brittany says. The boy ran off when they asked him to find his parents, and they later saw him with a teenage girl they assumed was his sister.
“It’s easy to judge, but at the same time, it could have been anyone,” Brittany says. “It’s a happy story with a happy ending. I guess if you are going to take anything away from it, it’s the importance of having your kids learn how to swim at an early age, and that people are aware that water is dangerous and you need to be careful around it.”