Four RCMP members who helped rescue a young woman from an icy, water-filled ditch nearly two years ago in Chilliwack were recognized in Victoria on Thursday.
Corporals Lee Dyson and Layne Penner (currently with Surrey detachment), and Constables Kevin Morris and Matt Wright were among 68 police officers who received meritorious service awards for “exemplary performance that exceeds expectations and enhances the public image of police officers.”
Another 19 officers received the award of valour, the highest award for a police officer in B.C.
The four Chilliwack members responded to a desperate 9-1-1 call on a snowy December morning in 2012. An 18-year-old woman had lost control of her vehicle; it was in a ditch and filling with water – fast.
RCMP descended on the area and finally located the vehicle on Gibson Road.
Knowing time was running out for whoever is inside, several police officers jumped into the water and tried to lift the car up high enough to expose the back window, while another officer tried to break it with a window punch.
When that didn’t work, the officer began punching the window with his bare fist until it broke.
He then crawled inside the water-filled car and pulled the woman to safety, handing her off to another officer outside who swam her to the edge of the ditch.
A waiting ambulance took her to Chilliwack General Hospital where was treated for Stage 1 hypothermia.
“By the time police reached me, the water was up to my neck,” the young girl later recalled.
“A bunch of the officers went in the water to lift the car, and the next thing I knew I was being pulled out,” she said. “(Then) we had to swim.”
“I am just so grateful to everyone who was there yesterday to help me.”
At the time, Chilliwack RCMP called the action heroic. “A lot of bravery and selflessness on the part of all the officers involved went into saving this woman’s life,” said spokesperson Const. Tracy Wolbeck.
On Thursday, the government of British Columbia agreed.
“The depth of commitment, clear-headedness and skill demonstrated by these officers - in perilous moments, and over longer periods of service - are examples to their colleagues and those who aspire to policing and other first responder roles,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton about all the recipients.
“Officers like these directly contribute so much to the safety of our communities, and their accomplishments are worthy of recognition and celebration.”