The Mountie who helped rescue an older couple from a sinking vehicle last week says teamwork and implicit trust were critical to the operation’s success.
On Dec. 15, a vehicle crashed into the swimming pool of a private home in Surrey, B.C., trapping the couple inside as water levels rose and the vehicle inched towards the deep end.
Const. Ngawang Gonpo said the homeowners called 911, tried to rescue the occupants themselves, and, when he arrived, carefully watched his duty belt, including his gun, as he jumped into the pool.
“I asked Mr. Gordon to look after my duty belt. I trusted him immediately. There was no time to think twice,” Gonpo told Global News. “He helped me take it off as well.”
The cause of the incident is still under investigation, but police said they believe the driver lost control, went off the road and crashed through a fence into the icy pool.
Homeowner Gordon Tremblay leapt into the water himself, but got stuck. Neighbour Justin Blackwell helped him out of the pool and together, they broke the vehicle’s back window.
They held on tightly to stop it from slipping into the deep end, and were able to get the passenger to a safer place in the car.
By the time Gonpo arrived, the water had risen as high as the driver’s chin. He’s not a “good swimmer,” he told Global News, but “this is when all the training and experience kicks in.”
It took him several attempts to get the driver’s side door to open as water pressure acted against him.
“I said, ‘Sir, keep breathing, keep breathing, sir, I’m here to help,'” he recalled.
“There was no response … I just felt his hand grab me. I told him, ‘Sir, I’m going to drag you out. It might hurt a little bit, but hold onto me, don’t let go,’ which he did.'”
Gonpo was also able to free the passenger and everyone helped pull people out of the pool.
The homeowners kept first responders informed of the operation while Gonpo was in the water, he said, and soon, his coworkers arrived to help too.
“I think it was wonderful to walk along with the general public — the trust there,” he said. “This is definitely one of the moments that I will never forget in my life. I was just happy to be there.”
The vehicle’s occupants are fully recovered from the incident, and Tremblay called Gonpo a “true hero.”