New Brunswick police officer rescues woman trapped in clothing donation bin

The clothing donation bin where a 60-year-old woman was trapped during a snowstorm in Miramichi, N.B. Callum Smith/Global News

A quick-thinking and observant police officer was able to save a woman who was trapped inside a clothing donation bin in Miramichi, N.B. early Monday morning during a snowstorm.

Miramichi Police Force Deputy Chief Brian Cummings says the officer was driving past the Lord Beaverbrook Arena on University Avenue at around 3:30 a.m. Monday, when he happened to glance at a number of clothing donation bins at the edge of the arena parking lot.

“He saw the flap moving and decided to investigate because we’ve had some thefts and damage to the bins in the past,” Cummings said.

When he stopped to check, he found a 60-year-old woman inside the bin. She told him she had crawled inside to get out of the storm a few hours earlier, but had become stuck and was unable to get out on her own.

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“He was able to get her head and shoulders out through [the flap] and once he had that out, was able to assist her in wiggling out but she wasn’t going to be able to get out on her own,” Cummings said.

“She was very cold. They didn’t take her to the hospital but given the circumstances, if he doesn’t notice that bin moving when he drives by, potentially we have a different outcome.”

Deputy Chief Brian Cummings shows how the woman could have entered the bin before getting stuck. Callum Smith/Global News

Cummings is praising the officer, who has been on the force for four years, for being so observant.

“Typically, we’re not out checking out those bins. She could have been in there for an extended period of time. She’s very lucky,” he said.

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The issue of people becoming trapped inside donation bins has been a deadly problem in this country. Earlier this month, the Canadian Press reported that since 2015, at least seven Canadians have died after getting stuck inside a clothing donation bin.

Since that report, a woman has died after being found inside a donation bin in Toronto on Jan. 8.

Many bins have a gate mechanism that is designed to prevent animals from getting in and to prevent theft. That mailbox-like design means that people can get inside the bin, but are unable to get out.

In the wake of the deaths, some jurisdictions have temporarily shut down the bins, while manufacturers look into changing their design.

Cummings says while it’s rare for people locally to enter the donation bins to get out of the elements, the city has had problems with vandalism and theft in the past.

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He says police will be keeping a closer eye on the bins now, and has a warning to the public.

“It’s certainly on the radar now for sure,” he said.

“Stay out of those bins. Nothing good can come out of entering one of those bins and finding yourself trapped inside. It’s a metal container and we’re in the dead of winter in New Brunswick. Things are cold and it’s not a place to be.”

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