Robert Deyo of Mission helped rescue an Abbotsford driver from a water-filled ditch on Sunday afternoon.

Robert Deyo of Mission helped rescue an Abbotsford driver from a water-filled ditch on Sunday afternoon.

Man shares tale of rescuing submerged driver in Abbotsford

The first sign of trouble was when Robert Deyo saw a 30-foot wall of water erupt around the car in front of him as it hit a flooded section of road.

The first sign of trouble was when Robert Deyo saw a 30-foot wall of water erupt around the car in front of him as it hit a flooded section of road.

Robert was on his way from Mission to drop off his wife, Debbie, at a home-care job in Abbotsford. It was about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, and the two were headed east along Clayburn Road, just off the Abbotsford-Mission Highway.

Robert, a care aide at Mission Memorial Hospital’s extended care unit, was aware the area was known for flooding, but a barricade had been moved to the side and this was the quickest route to their destination.

They saw the Honda Civic ahead hit a flooded portion, sending the car into a counter-clockwise spin and smashing into a power pole on its passenger side. Pieces of the car flew off, and a big cloud of smoke billowed into the air.

The vehicle came to rest, facing in the opposite direction in a drainage ditch on the north side of the road.

“We gotta get in there!” Robert yelled to Debbie as he pulled up to the scene.

As he leaped out of the car, he tossed his cellphone to her so she could call 911.

The vehicle was slowly sinking. It was on its side, with the driver’s door facing up.

Robert rushed into the ditch. He is six feet tall, and the water came up to his neck.

“Anybody in there?!” he yelled.

The water was dark and muddy. Robert couldn’t see into the vehicle. He opened the driver’s door and frantically felt around with his hands, to no avail. He looked up and down the ditch, but couldn’t see anyone.

Another man showed up at the scene. The two moved around to the roof of the vehicle, and began pushing on the car.

They were finally able to find the victim, and pulled him to the surface. They turned him on his back and the man gasped for air.

The two rescuers moved him to the bank. By then, other people had stopped at the scene, and one of them was a nurse.

“He has an airway. Keep the airway open!” Robert told her.

But he was frantic that someone else could be in the water. He kept looking and helped emergency personnel when they arrived at the scene. Thermal imaging was used to scan the water, and no one else was found.

The victim was airlifted to hospital.

That night, Robert was plagued by the thought that someone had been left behind. But he was assured by police the next day that the victim, who had been identified, was the sole occupant.

The 21-year-old Abbotsford man, whose name has not been released, is in hospital with a serious head injury.

Robert, 52, has been unable to work due to the physical strain that his body suffered during the rescue, as well as the emotional trauma. He has sought counselling for post-traumatic stress.

He said he wouldn’t hesitate to help again. He has two sons who, at 23 and 27, are similar in age to the victim.

“I just hope someone would do that for my family,” he said, choking up.

Robert brushes off any references to himself as a hero.

“I think anybody that was able would do what they could do.”

Neither the other man who helped rescue the victim, nor the nurse who assisted at the scene wanted to be identified. Robert said he shared his story so that others might do the same in an emergency situation.

“You don’t go out that day thinking you’re going to save someone from a sinking car.”

Just Posted

City begins community engagement for Mission Waterfront Revitalization Master Plan

Wants the community’s input to bring to life the vision outlined in the Official Community Plan

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Father’s Day Parade planned for Mission

Classic vehicles from the 1920s to the 1970s will drive through Mission, Hatzic on June 20

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Most Read