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Witness leaps into water to rescue driver

The vehicle recovery went off without incident in front of a large crowd of onlookers and was completed by approximately 5:30 p.m. The cause of the accident that produced this result is still under investigation.  - Mike Davies/The Mirror
The vehicle recovery went off without incident in front of a large crowd of onlookers and was completed by approximately 5:30 p.m. The cause of the accident that produced this result is still under investigation.
— image credit: Mike Davies/The Mirror

Two pickups collided at the entrance to Discovery Pier, sending one of them into the water Wednesday.

At approximately 1 p.m., according to Const. Peter Wise of the Campbell River RCMP, police received multiple 911 calls to attend a collision at the entrance to Fisherman’s Wharf/Discovery Pier between a pickup truck exiting the parking lot – being driven by Campbell River Mayor Walter Jakeway – and another traveling northbound on Highway 19A. The driver of the northbound vehicle lost control and plunged over a bank and into the water by Fisherman’s Wharf.

John Brett, who helped rescue the woman as her truck submerged in the harbour, was travelling north. He was the first one at the door of the sinking truck.

“She clipped the truck that was coming out of the pier parking lot,” he said, “and skidded over the sidewalk off a planter and over she went.”

Brett said he immediately parked his vehicle, scrambled down the rocky bank, dove in, swam to the truck – which was still floating slightly when he arrived – and managed to get the woman’s attention enough to get her to open her window.

“I jammed my head and shoulders in and managed to get her seatbelt off as we sunk, came up for air, and then went back and pulled her through the window,” Brett said.

Const. Wise confirmed that the occupant was treated by paramedics on scene for precautionary reasons and cold-water immersion, but sustained no serious injuries from the incident.

Gregory Wray Earl, 61, was walking southbound on the east sidewalk of the highway – the one the truck crossed on its way to the water – as the incident happened.

He said that, in retrospect, it replays over in his mind, “like a movie in slow motion,” remembering the car careening over the sidewalk in front of him. “At least I had time to react. It was coming straight towards me, and all of a sudden it veered off over the bank,” he said. “If I would have been 15 steps further [up the sidewalk] I’d be on that grill and dead.”

Wharf manager Phyllis Titus said that the facility’s response was also urgent, and booms were immediately set out to contain any leaks from the vehicle, so there would be no environmental impact due to leakage from the submerged vehicle.

“I’ve been here 13 years and never seen something like this,” she said, adding that she was glad there were no injuries.

“There was one person in the water almost before the truck was, and maybe five people in [the water] right away to help her get out,” she said.

Mayor Jakeway agreed that the public’s response was impressive.

“I was surprised at how quickly people jumped in to help. I would have if nobody else had,” he said, but added that he was on the phone with a 911 operator and saw that the woman was being attended to.

After it was determined there were no injuries and the commotion was starting to calm down, Titus surveyed the scene and those crowded around watching. “It’s just a truck in the water,” she said, as they awaited a dive team to begin the recovery of the vehicle. The removal was completed without serious incident as the public crowded the sidewalk to watch the event, which was over by approximately 5:30 p.m.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation by the RCMP.

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