It took nearly three hours of hospital care to bring Darryl Stroet’s core body temperature back to safe levels.
The Mission B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic spent about 30 minutes up to his waist in frigid water last Monday as he worked with local firefighters to help save a woman whose truck had careened into a ditch and landed upside down, trapping her.
Stroet’s shift had started at 6:30 a.m., and he was just finishing checking over his ambulance when the crew was paged out to Chester Street and Lougheed Highway for a single-vehicle accident.
“When we arrived I could see lots of civilians all over the place,” he said, including three bystanders who witnessed the crash and had waded into the water-filled channel to see if the driver was injured.
“My first thought was that I didn’t want them to get hurt, to get hypothermia,” said the 19-year veteran paramedic.
He made his way down the precariously steep ditch and called out to the trapped woman.
“‘You’re safe, we’re here to help you,’” he said.
Stroet asked a nearby RCMP constable to toss down a crowbar, which the former Smithers firefighter used to pry the underside of the door open two to three inches so that he could use his flashlight to pierce the inky darkness. He saw the water had risen to the woman’s neck.
When Mission Fire/Rescue Service arrived Stroet asked for the firefighters’ extrication tools. The paramedic and a firefighter worked together, and five minutes later, the door had been forced enough to allow the victim to escape.
The woman was relatively unhurt, and whisked off to hospital. Stroet went to look for the civilians who had been in the water to check them for hypothermia, but quickly found he was so cold and cramped that he could barely walk, and that he couldn’t use his hands. He was taken to emergency where, over the course of almost three hours, he was warmed up.
“It was a brutal feeling,” he said about the pins and needles pain coursing through his legs and hands as circulation returned.
Mission Asst. Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said simply that Stroet’s action were heroic.
Since the story gained widespread attention, Stroet has been getting recognized around Mission. While uncomfortable with all the attention, he’s pleased more people are getting a glimpse into what he and other first responders face on a daily basis.
“I work here because I live here, and I take pride in helping the people of Mission. I take a lot of pride in being a paramedic and in putting on my uniform,” he said.