Eric Benson

Women rescued from overturned car in ditch

"I am afraid to think of the outcome had he not acted in the fashion he did"

A local man is being lauded as a hero after he rescued two women whose vehicle overturned in a water-filled ditch Monday evening.

“I witnessed a man jump into a ditch filled with running water to rescue two women and, I believe, two small dogs who were trapped in an overturned vehicle,” said Tom MacArthur.

The accident involved a Suzuki Swift and occurred around 7:30 p.m. on Evergreen Road.

“He had both occupants and dogs out of the vehicle before emergency crews arrived,” MacArthur said. “Last I saw him, he was being attended to by paramedics for some minor injuries he received but I can tell you he was soaked from head to toe from that freezing water. I am afraid to think of the outcome had he not acted in the fashion he did.”

The man who took action was Eric Benson, a local musician and mental health services worker. Benson was still feeling the emotional and physical effects of his action two days later; sore legs and concern for the two women still fresh on his mind.

“I hope they’re okay,” Benson said.

Not everybody on the scene was able to do what Benson did, although the first people on the scene called 911 on their cell phones. MacArthur’s age left him too frail to do anything. Benson was coming home from work and saw a line of car tail lights down the hill from the Peterson Road intersection on Evergreen. One set of lights was in the ditch.

“When I saw the car was upside down, I pulled over and got out,” Benson said.

MacArthur said, “The man got out of his vehicle and asked me if the driver was out and okay but I said I thought it had just happened and someone was still inside. The man immediately jumped down into the ditch and it looked like it took him quite a bit of struggle to get the door open.”

There was about three feet of running water in the ditch and Benson could hear a woman screaming, “Get me out!” The door was wedged into the ground.

“I reefed on the door and it started to open,” Benson said.

Finally, the door was opened and the woman was helped out. Benson asked if there was anybody else in the vehicle and she said, “No, my dog’s in there.”

So Benson looked in and saw a little white dog, which he removed and handed to a person on the bank.

“The driver tells me there’s another dog in the car and I think ‘Oh crap!’ Back in the car.”

Back inside he spots the other dog and – surprise – another woman, hanging upside, belted in the seat. He asks her if she’s alright, realizing at the same time that his arms are around a baby seat. He starts feeling around in the water all the while hoping he does not come across the body of an infant.

“I started yelling ‘Is there a baby in here?’ She says ‘no.’”

Benson helped the passenger out and handed her to paramedics who had arrived. With the occupants out, Benson took stock of himself: a couple of cuts, soaking wet.

“That was when I noticed how cold I was,” he said.

With the situation in hand, Benson headed home.

Campbell River RCMP were called to the accident around 7:30 p.m. by which time the occupants were out of the vehicle.

The driver was taken to the Campbell River RCMP detachment while the passenger was taken to hospital with a possible broken hand.

The resulting police investigation revealed that the driver was impaired with blood alcohol results almost three times the legal limit, said Sgt. Terry Deley.

Mounties are investigating the