Vancouver’s overdose crisis has hit the streets hard over the last 12 months but today’s latest incident raises questions of whether a man was overdosing while driving busy streets.
Early Wednesday morning, a Coast Mountain Bus Company driver witnessed another driver have a suspected overdose behind the wheel, and says it was a miracle no one ended up dead.
It happened on Columbia Street between East Hastings and Cordova Street at 5:30 a.m. Jim Baxter was driving his bus northbound when he noticed a man in a Volvo station wagon driving unusually. Moments later, the Volvo stopped at a 45-degree angle in the middle of the intersection.
Baxter said a nearby City of Vancouver worker approached the car, then walked up to the bus.
“As I slid my window open, he told me ‘I think this guy’s asleep.’ At that moment, I put on my brake and I walked up to see if I could assist the guy. He looked like he was dead.”
The driver was hunched against the steering wheel with his arms dangling next to him, Baxter said. He and the city worker opened the man’s door but could not get a response from him, leading them to call 911.
“I thought he was deceased,” Baxter said.
In a stroke of luck, a police officer happened to be nearby. He also tried to wake the driver up but couldn’t rouse him. Only a weak pulse was detected.
“The police officer took him out of the car and frantically tried to revive him. He was pumping on his chest and everything you could do.”
When paramedics arrived they didn’t have any more success. It wasn’t until after a second round of naloxone – a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose – that the man “came back to life,” as Baxter put it.
Shortly afterwards, Baxter said a tourniquet was found on the driver’s seat.
“I see a lot of things as a driver, but I’ve never seen this before.”
While the man ultimately survived the incident, Baxter said “by the grace of God” the man happened to have his foot on the brake pedal and credited that for saving his life, and possibly others.
“If it was on the gas pedal, we’re not having this story. It’s a bad ending… it’s the only thing that kept him alive.”
Baxter suspected the driver, whose car had Washington plates, was about 25.
Vancouver Police confirmed the incident and told Global News they have not laid charges yet but have seized the man’s vehicle. The investigation is ongoing.
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