A chance meeting between two groups of strangers led to the dramatic rescue of a young Cape Breton man who fell through the ice near a popular waterfall on the weekend.

Julien Rouleau and his friends were snowshoeing at the Uisge Ban Falls in Baddeck, N.S. when they decided to climb the falls to snap a few photos.

On the way back down, 21-year-old Rouleau slipped and fell to the water below.

“It was a long fall down to the water, then all the ice kind of fell on top of me,” he says. “The whole falls were kind of beating on top of me.”

“He just dropped straight down and literally disappeared with the current. I didn’t think he was coming back out,” says his friend, Cody Delaney.

Rouleau tried to pull himself out of the icy water, but the current was too strong. He spent more than a minute underneath the ice and admits he thought he was a goner.

That’s when he started to think of his loved ones.

“I just had to relax, pull myself together. I just thought of pretty well everybody, everybody I could think of, and hope I was going to make it through the day.”

Thankfully, a group of cross-country skiers were nearby. They had met Rouleau and his friends minutes earlier and rushed to help once they realized Rouleau was in trouble.

One of the men offered his ski pole to Rouleau; it took four men to pull him out of the water.

“When I saw that pole, that’s when I finally felt I had a chance of survival,” says Rouleau.

“Once he got the pole, I guess he got him by the hand, got him by his other hand, he held him there for a while, until the rest of us could get in there and haul him out,” says Delaney.

The young men identified the rescuers are Kieran Tompkins and Steve Ross of the Halifax area and Vince Forrestall of Baddeck.

CTV News contacted Thompkins via phone. He said he’s simply glad he and his friends were in the right place at the right time.

Rouleau is OK after the ordeal and says he is forever grateful to the men he calls his “heroes.”

“It’s hard to thank someone for saving your life like that, I don’t know. I’d definitely take them out for a beer.”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald