A Penticton firefighter trying to help a distraught woman who suffered what are believed to be life-threatening injuries from a fall Sunday underwent a critical incident stress debriefing afterwards.
The unidentified firefighter was running after the woman who had driven into the back parking lot of Fire Hall #2 frantically requesting assistance, saying somebody was chasing her and threatening her life, according to deputy chief Chris Forster.
“He (firefighter) said ‘I’ll take you into the fire hall’ and when he went to open the door she bolted and ran off, so obviously he’s concerned,” said Forster. “He followed her around the front of the building (fire hall) and she’s running along and so he’s trying to catch up with her and that’s when he witnessed her go over.
“He was very affected by it. Those are very difficult calls for a firefighter, especially for him when he’s trying to help her.”
The woman was running on the north side of Dawson Avenue and the wall she went over was around a laneway on the Real Canadian Superstore property about 20 feet below.
Forster speculated the woman may not have realized the danger of the situation.
“The ground is going down on an angle and to the left of it is all ground and in the front of you is all ground and there’s no reason to think that behind is not the same level of ground,” he said. “When I looked down, she was right over as you get to the railing.”
There is no railing on the south side of the wall.
Getting the woman out was difficult because of a large compacting machine in the laneway which Forster estimated to be about four or five feet from the back of the wall and two metal boxes beside the machine leaving about two feet of clearance on the side.
“There wasn’t a lot of room to work,” he said. “They got her on a spine board and they brought the stretcher down and placed it on the two metal boxes so they had the ability to lift her up and put her into the basket stretcher.”
Fortunately three of the department’s specially trained, high-angle rescue team members were on duty that day, one of whom was the firefighter trying to assist the woman initially.
“That really helped out,” said Forster. “The more of the delay was just trying to stabilize her and get her on the (spine) board.”
Using the ladder truck, which was positioned across Dawson Avenue, the basket with the injured woman was lifted out and she was transferred by ambulance with emergency lights and sirens, followed by an RCMP car. The rescue closed the road for just under an hour with a crowd of people watching.
At this point police say they are not investigating the incident.
Forster credited his crew for getting the woman out as quickly as possible.
“Rope systems are very complicated and this went like clockwork,” he said. “It was boom, boom, boom, nothing phased them even though it was complex. I was very impressed with the guys and how they handled it. Ten out of 10.”