The woman who was first on the scene of a fiery crash that killed a man on Highway 3 in Princeton is haunted by the experience.
“I approached the vehicle. It was on fire and the driver was banging on the window yelling ‘help, help.’ I tried to get the door to open but it was all crunched by the tree. The vehicle started exploding so I ran away from it, trying to see if there was another way to safely approach,” said Courtney (last name withheld) in an interview with The Similkameen Spotlight.
The crash occurred Aug. 19, at about 12:30 p.m. Police later determined that the Nissan pickup truck was stolen, along with a trailer loaded with canoes.
“Witnesses reported the pickup trailer combination was being driven in an erratic manner prior to the collision,” said Cpl. Mike Halskov, RCMP media relations officer.
The truck left the highway, travelled down an embankment, and landed in the parking lot of a Memorial Park. It collided with a tree and burst into flames.
The driver was removed from the truck and airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
The passenger was pinned in the vehicle, and died at the scene.
RCMP are continuing their investigation.
“It happened so fast. I saw a trailer of canoes go off the road. The truck had already gone over,” said Courtney.
She called 911, ran across the highway, and tried desperately to get to the trapped men.
“Another person came to help, that was driving behind me. He was a Abbotsford firefighter…He took a paddle from the canoes and smashed the passenger window.
“Another civilian came and the two of them pulled the driver out of the vehicle.”
There was no chance to save the passenger.
“It was too late. The vehicle was so engulfed in flames, and exploding more with each second, and too dangerous,” said Courtney. “My heart broke… But we had to help the life we got out, and it wasn’t safe for us to try anymore.”
Courtney, along with others, administered first aid to the driver until paramedics arrived.
“I held his hand to sooth him and kept telling him he was going to be alright.”
Passersby who stopped to assist included an off-duty RCMP officer, an emergency room doctor, and someone who works with social services.
Courtney reached out to The Spotlight to express gratitude to the people who helped.
Some gave her food and water, and others helped keep the children in her own vehicle safe and fed.
“Thank you to everyone that worked fast to save this man. You all worked together. Your kindness shows, and karma will be a blessing for you.”
She also hopes her message reaches the families of the men in the truck.
“I want the families, if they come across this, to know that the men were not alone… I want the families to know that they weren’t alone. They had many people right by their side, helping them.
Anyone with information about this accident, including any dash camera video, who has yet to speak with police is asked to contact Keremeos RCMP at 250‑499‑2250.
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