HORNBY ISLAND, B.C. -- The man who first spotted signs of trouble among two seniors in the waters off Hornby Island Tuesday is praising the efforts of first responders who came to the pair's aid.

Greg Copeland was doing construction work on a farm along the island's waterfront when he and another worker heard a man coming towards them yelling for help around 4 p.m.

"We saw him partway up in the field, we knew he wasn't just wandering. For some reason he had ended up on this property," Copeland says

The man was soaking wet and was speaking quickly in a thick French accent, talking about his friend dying out in the ocean on nearby Norris Rock.

The pair were in a small aluminum boat, which apparently capsized in the water. One man made it to shore, the other didn't.

"He was scared, he didn't really want to be out on the water, he wanted to go home earlier," Copeland says.

According to Copeland, the survivor was surprised he had made it to shore. 

Copeland and his coworker helped the elderly survivor out of his wet clothes and wrapped him in a sleeping bag while they called 911.

"Everybody was really good, they were really good getting what they needed for help," Copeland says.

Hornby Island Fire Chief Doug Chinnery says the incident was "a tricky situation with multiple patients, multiple locations and multiple agencies."

Paramedics from Denman Island assisted along with an air ambulance from Vancouver and a coast guard vessel out of French Creek. 

Chinnery says they are still trying to piece together exactly what happened on the water and how the victim, in his late 70s, ended up on Norris Rock.

"We're not really sure how he got onto the rocks, if his friend dragged him up onto the rocks or whether he just ended up there with the waves and the current action," Chinnery says. 

Firefighters continued to perform CPR on the victim as he was taken by dive boat from the rocks to nearby Ford's Cove Marina. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Neither of the two men are believed to have been wearing personal flotation devices although there were some inside the boat. 

RCMP and the coroners service are continuing to investigate.