It was a day Lisa Rands won’t soon forget.
The Enderby woman was driving home from Armstrong on the morning of Jan.,6, when she came across a serious, multi-vehicle accident along Highway 97A just south of Enderby.
“The highway was stopped and nobody was coming through and I just got out of my car to see what was going on,” Rands told Global News.
The crash happened just south of Enderby and just moments before her arrival. Emergency responders had not yet arrived.
Rands approached the crash scene and noticed two vehicles and a logging truck, which was as she says pretty “banged up.”
One of the vehicles involved was a van with five occupants: A mom, dad and their three children.
Rands said she heard crying from the back of the vehicle.
“I could hear children in the back, but I couldn’t see anything because of all the airbags,” she said.
“I was talking quite loudly ‘We’re going to get you out, help is coming, you’re going to be OK,’ saying those words and then trying to make a connection to them in the vehicle.”
The van’s doors couldn’t be opened and the victims had to wait for emergency responders to get them out.
Both parents, Matt Lien, 34, and Lindsay Palmateer, 28, suffered serious injuries. Palmateer died in hospital a few days later.
“I just remember chatting with my wife on the drive and the next thing I know, I woke up in the van,” Lien told Global News.
Lien suffered numerous injuries. He was released from hospital last Friday.
“From what I’m told, a car cropped into our lane and hit us, which then pushed us in front of a logging truck,” Lien said.
The Salmon Arm family was en route to Kelowna for a medical appointment at the time.
Once first responders arrived, they handed over the two youngest boys, aged two and five, to Rands, who volunteered to stay with them as long as necessary.
She sat with them in the back of a police cruiser, offering much-needed comfort.
“The youngest one was in remarkably in perfect condition. The five-year-old was uncomfortable, in pain,” she said.
“I was able to calm him down, just like talking and singing and rubbing his back.”
Vernon North Okanagan RCMP said Rands stepped forward to provide immediate and continuing care, adding that her continued assistance allowed emergency personnel to provide life-saving care to other victims and to manage the unfolding situation.
Last week, Rands was recognized by the RCMP and handed a certificate of appreciation for her kindness and compassion.
“Your courageous and selfless actions that day brought comfort to those affected by this tragedy,” Rands was told by Vernon Supt. Shawna Baher.
“Your kindness and willingness to render emergency assistance to those in a time of need is commendable, and for that, we offer our sincerest appreciation.”
Rands said she was only doing what she felt was the right thing to do.
“I feel like it’s undeserved. I feel like this is something that we as a community should just automatically do,” Rands said.
“I know that first responders do this kind of thing in their daily jobs, so I feel like they deserve recognition for the jobs that they do. And, yes, I appreciate it, but I don’t feel like I deserve it.”
Matt Lien disagreed, expressing gratitude to Rands for going above and beyond.
“Very well deserved,” he said. “I mean, knowing my kids were taken care of in that situation is all I could ask.”
Lien is now at his mom’s home, recovering and mourning the loss of his wife.
Palmateer wasn’t only a mom to their three children, but also a step-mom to Lien’s three other children from a previous relationship.
He said Palmateer’s death has left a huge void in their family.
“Very, very, very hard shoes to fill,” he said speaking of his late wife. “Very hard.”
Lien’s mother is also grieving Palmateer’s loss and is still processing the tragedy.
“She wasn’t just Matt’s wife. she was my daughter,” said Kim Lien, Matt’s mother.
“I still feel like she’s going to walk through the door and tell us it was all a joke.”