Three people rescue driver from fiery crash near Port Alberni
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Tuesday, March 12, 2019 5:59PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 12, 2019 6:49PM PDT
The heroic actions of three people are being credited for saving the life of another driver near Port Alberni.
A pickup truck burst into flames on the highway between Port Alberni and the Parksville-Qualicum area Tuesday morning, closing the route for several hours. The blaze was sparked by a head-on crash between the pickup and an SUV on a stretch of Highway 4 known as the Alberni hump.
Nick Labadie was heading to work at BC Hydro in Nanaimo when he came upon the scene just before 7:30 a.m.
“The one driver was out of their vehicle, walking around. She seemed OK, she was on the phone,” Labadie told CTV News. “There was flames underneath the other vehicle and the driver of that one was definitely in distress.”
The driver was screaming for help from the cab of the pickup.
“He was stuck in the vehicle. He was conscious, yelling and screaming in pain that he wanted to get out. ‘Please get me out! Somebody get me out of here!’
Labadie, the woman and another man who arrived first at the scene jumped into action, trying to wrench the driver’s door open.
“I tried to heave on the door. We both did and we knew that we could not get that door open.”
The driver was tangled in his seatbelt and the airbag was covering his face, Labadie said.
“The flames were coming in real quick and the smoke was billowing real fast.”
The driver was able to unbuckle his seatbelt, with coaching from the Good Samaritans. The rescuers then tried to pull the driver out the window, but his foot became stuck.
“By that time I went around to the passenger side, opened the door – lots of smoke and a little bit of flames starting to show – and I kinda dove in there blind.”
Labadie said he freed the driver’s foot from a piece of clothing that was trapping him in cab. With his foot released, Labadie rejoined the other passersby and pulled the victim out the driver’s side window.
The tthree rescuers administered some emergency first aid and then dragged the victim away from the truck.
“At that time, the tires started blowing up and the vehicle was fully engaged in flames,” Labadie said.
The rescuers were quickly joined by an off-duty paramedic who oversaw their first-aid efforts, and a logging truck crew that had a first aid kit, including an oxygen mask, which they administered.
“I don’t know who the other gentleman is but he did a fantastic job,” Labadie said. “We were getting this guy out no matter what it took.”
Labadie then called the injured driver’s wife and told her that her husband had been in a crash but was OK and would be on his way to the hospital.
“As I was speaking to her I could hear the ambulances coming up.”
The RCMP commended the three rescuers, saying it is likely the injured driver would not have survived had they not been so quick to help.
Highway 4 was shut down along a 1.7-kilometre stretch between Elkford Road and Chalet Road until 9 a.m.