Harrowing Pitt Meadows rescue among stories and people recognized at ceremony

A number of awards were handed out during the ceremony. - Alex Skerdzhev
A number of awards were handed out during the ceremony.
— image credit: Alex Skerdzhev

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 is a date etched in Jody Branter’s mind, almost one year later.

It was in the evening of that day, that the Pitt Meadows resident heard a crash across the street from his place, but “it did not sound like a typical metal-on-metal crash.”

Upon going to investigate, Branter and others came upon a white Honda Civic, upside down in a water-filled ditch, its occupants still inside, on Woolridge Road, in Pitt Meadows.

And Branter didn’t think twice about what he did next.

“My very first thought was that they were stuck in their seatbelts and I reacted to that,” he said.

“Because there was already at least one person in the ditch and another neighbour bringing tools, my first reaction was to sprint back into my house and grab a knife to cut the seatbelts off.”

At this point, the car’s windows were not yet submerged and “I could see that they were still strapped in,” he recalled.

When he returned, he joined the neighbour in the ditch to attempt to get the drivers’ side door open with whatever tools were there.”

By now, the driver was “fully underwater” and unconscious.

The other occupant in the car had been extricated by this time, “and was bleeding and screaming... going into shock.”

Access wasn’t possible through the route the occupant had come out, and “rear of the car was somewhat destroyed and twisted.”

Those out of the water took turns heaving on the pry bar as others deeper in the water and closer to the car like Branter positioned the end of the pry bar to where they wanted it.

“As the fire department was just pulling up, we finally were able to pry the driver’s door open,” he said. “I was able to reach inside and cut off her belt with the knife from earlier. With the help of a few others, we were able to untangle her from the belt and door frame parts and pull her out by her feet.”

As Branter turned around, “the firefighters were right beside us and they took over, attempting to resuscitate her on the bank of the ditch.” The firefighters “worked on her for a while but it seemed to us at the scene that she clearly had been underwater too long,” Branter said.

“They stopped CPR at one point, but from there on I was not paying attention to exactly what they were doing.”

For his efforts, Branter and others were recognized last week, as Ridge-Meadows RCMP held their Officer In Charge Recognition and Awards Ceremony recently at The ACT.

A variety of awards were handed out in a number of categories, including: community service, innovation, leadership, excellence in performance, valor, as well as long service awards.

An event like this is important because it gives “recognition to not only our members and our employees, but also our city staff who work behind the scenes, our volunteers who help us deliver programs, and then a few citizens who were given commendations for coming to the aid of fellow citizens,” said Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Fleugel.

As for Branter, “the award was a complete surprise,” he said.

“I didn’t feel and still don’t feel to this day that I did anything different than what I would expect most other people to do. It did not occur to me for a second not to jump in the water and do everything I could to help.”

That’s not to say Branter doesn’t appreciate the award.

“I do. It is with a truly humble heart that I accepted the award and any other thanks I have received.”

It made him “a little more proud that night to be a part of this community,” he added. “I would never expect recognition for any act like this.”

The awards evening itself was “very well organized and well done,” he added. “I was again very humbled to be in the company of many that have contributed so much to the community and also put their lives on the line every day.”

The awards for recognition "were across many many different stories and situations," he added. "Some were recognised for single handedly disarming dangerous criminals, some for cracking new and old case files, and some were recognised for long years of service as community volunteers."

A few days after the accident, Branter met the passenger while she was at the site grieving with her friends and then again when she and her parents came to my house to thank him, he recalled.

“I’m glad she made it out relatively unharmed,” he said.

Branter walks “by the victim’s cross every day and not a day goes by that I don’t feel regret for not doing something else to get her out faster.

“I’m sure that will never go away but it stays fresh in my mind to learn from if I am ever faced with a similar situation,” he said. "I've bought my family seatbelt cutters/glass breaker combos that fit on their keychains. I am considering doing the same for my staff here at PRT Growing Services. The forestry nursery is on the same site as my house so all my staff drive this same road every day."

There were "many contributing factors that led to this accident," Branter added.

"These ditches in Pitt Meadows have claimed a number of lives in the 10 years I've lived here. Another two or three on our road alone in the year since this incident."

The locals know their danger but the roads, (Kennedy -> Woolridge -> Ford Road detour ) get used as a Lougheed Highway bypass by "hundreds of commuters every day because of the high volume and backup on Lougheed during rush hours," Branter noted.

"The vast majority of those do not comprehend the danger and they certainly do not slow down," he said. "The long straightaway is just too tempting and people travel well over the speed limit at all times, young people and motorcycles in particular."

There is no sidewalk or lane for bikes or pedestrians, he added.

"While the city is very good at de-icing the roads when there is even the slightest chance of frost, I have never in 10 years witnessed any sort of police effort to slow people down with radar traps," he said.

"It's not the roads or the ditches that are the danger, it's the drivers. Barriers will not help that and I hope someday someone will take some action to address this. I'd welcome speedbumps or radar traps."


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