A local teacher will receive an award for his heroic act.
Yves Poirier, history teacher at Timberline, will fly to Quebec City this weekend to accept an award on behalf of the Quebec government, recognizing an act of civic duty he accomplished this past Christmas Eve while visiting family in Quebec.
Poirier goes back to his hometown of Senneterre, Quebec, for most Christmas holidays, but during his last Christmas visit his aunt passed away on Dec. 22.
Poirier and his father were moving her stuff from the nursing home she was in, back to her old house, which she had given to Poirier as an early inheritance, on Dec. 24.
When they parked the truck at the house, which sits alongside the Nottaway River, Poirier noticed a snowmobile down on the frozen river.
“I open the door, I hear screaming, that’s a girl – that’s the wife of the guy that is sinking down there, that is in the water already,” explained Poirier. “Then I could see the man, well I could see the head sticking out of the ice.”
Poirier said the man was yelling for his wife not to come any closer because the ice was thin, but Poirier ran down without even thinking about it, grabbing a strap the man’s wife was holding along the way.
“About 20 yards before the hole I had to go on my belly because the ice was dark; when the ice is that dark it’s because the water’s right there,” said Poirier, who added that this was the point when he thought about what he was doing, but it was now to late to turn back.
The man was exhausted from trying to pull himself out. Because the ice kept breaking under the man’s weight when he tried to get out, Poirier said the hole was about 10 by 15 feet when he arrived.
Poirier threw the strap to the man and tried to pull him out, almost being pulled in himself a couple of times, when he heard a noise underneath him.
“It cracked right under me,” said Porier. “I felt the ice was not good at all.”
He moved about 10 feet away, sat up, dug in his heels, and pulled again.
He said he almost had the man out, when Poirier’s 85-year-old father had made it down onto the ice. His father tossed Poirier a length of rope to tie around himself, and pulled on Poirier so that he wouldn’t go into the water.
Within a few minutes of Poirier’s arrival the man was out of the water.
However, he had already been in the water for about 10 minutes before Porier showed up. Also, the man’s wife had called 911 but the location was on a long private road and hard for her to explain to 911 dispatch.
“When they (ambulances) showed up, he was already out of there (the river) for 20 minutes. He would not have made it, that’s for sure,” Poirier said.
While Poirier is looking forward to a paid trip to Quebec City to pick up his award, he said he doesn’t think his heroic act was too big of a deal.
“The thing is you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror the next morning,” said Poirier.
“You don’t want to look at yourself as somebody that’s going to back out of the (dangerous) situation, so, not my style.”