The mystery of the lost prosthetic leg

James Walter, right, and Doug Henderson show off a collection of goods lost by tubers in the Cowichan River. - Ashley Degraaf
James Walter, right, and Doug Henderson show off a collection of goods lost by tubers in the Cowichan River.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf

The universe was hard at work Monday, dealing the Karma card to a local diver and a Victoria man looking for his lost prosthetic leg.

Due to random, somewhat chance circumstances, Rob Boyce of Victoria retrieved his leg that sunk in the Cowichan River during a tubing trip.

Thanks to Cobble Hill’s James Walter’s summertime hobby, snorkeling and diving the drink, and certainly to fate, a tickled Boyce is now back to his day-to-day life in Victoria.

Boyce had gone tubing Sunday with his girlfriend near the Skutz Falls area.

The two met up with some serious rapids that swept Boyce into a rock.

His prosthetic leg fell off and was lost in the current-stricken river bend.

And, after failed attempts to locate the $16,000 limb, Boyce was forced to carry on.

Meanwhile, 29-year-old Walter was gearing up for his weekend routine of plunging into the river, mostly to meet cool rocks, fish and other creatures, as well as collect tubers’ lost goods, including typical sun and reading glasses, cameras and car keys.

“Pretty much anything you can think of we’ve found at some time or another,” Walter said.

A prosthetic leg, however, is definitely the oddest item he’s swam across.

“There’s some dark humour in diving that if you ever found a body, that would be one of the scariest things,” he said.

For a split-second, that fear turned into a reality for Walter during Sunday’s swim.

“The first thing that came to my vision was this sandal covered bare foot…a realistic bare-looking foot kind of thing. Until I saw the aluminum piece attached to it, definitely your heart misses a couple beats.”

Walter, his buddy and his girlfriend were swimming around the Horseshoe Bend campsite area, “which is by the first set of rapids near the falls,” he said.

After snatching up Boyce’s lost leg, Walter quickly trucked it through the bush, as a group of boozing rowdies, who didn’t appear to be missing a leg, was now hanging out on the rocks on shore.

“I didn’t want anyone to really see, because it was just the partiers on the rocks there and it obviously wasn’t their leg and you could tell it had been there for a couple hours because of the algae that was starting to grow on it.”

When Walter got home that evening, he placed ads on UsedVictoria and emailed the Times Colonist in Victoria to track down the leg’s owner.

Meanwhile, a bothered Boyce was using social media network Facebook to search for leads.

“God damn it! If anyone finds a prosthetic leg going tubing down Cowichan River please let me know. Got flipped over a rock and bam it was gone. Heading back tomorrow to try to find it,” Boyce posted Sunday at 3:53 p.m.

Curious Times Colonist staffers followed up on Walter’s classified ad and because both Boyce and the TC had contacted the Duncan/North Cowichan RCMP detachment, the mystery of the missing prosthetic leg was solved.

“Of course the owner was thrilled,” North Cowichan/ Duncan RCMP Cpl. Kevin Day said, explaining an officer, after having received a call from the newspaper, got in touch with Boyce.

Karma kept rolling and eventually Walter and Boyce met at the Tim Hortons in Mill Bay.

Walter refused Boyce’s reward offer.

“Thank God there are still awesome people in this world. James Walter you are awesome…” Boyce posted on Facebook afterward.

“I knew it wouldn’t be very hard to find the owner, because I knew he’d be looking for it,” Walter said.

“But I’ve found lots of stuff and given lots of stuff back over the years and it’s not usually that quick.

“It just worked out funny like that.”

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