Still from a short video as strangers Adam Nelson and Sokha Eang pulled 17-year-old Kyle Ruffell out from a car trapped in a water-filled ditch on Keith Wilson Road in Chilliwack on Feb. 19, 2019. The person in the safety vest is a paramedic who arrived on the scene a few minutes later. (Lyndsie Gibbon)

VIDEO: ‘Heroes’ rescue teenager trapped in vehicle in water-filled ditch in Chilliwack

Two men sprang into action, holding 17-year-old’s head out of water as they pried open door

Surrey realtor and avid angler Sokha Eang was on his way to fish for steelhead on the Vedder River on Tuesday when he came upon a vehicle upside down in a water-filled ditch on Keith Wilson Road.

What Eang didn’t know at that moment at around 8:30 a.m. was that red Honda Civic inside were two teenagers trapped, one critically injured with his head in the water.

“I popped out to take a look and that’s when I realized, this is a serious situation,” Eang told The Progress. “I quickly tightened up my boots and went.”

Already on the scene was Adam Nelson of Mission, who had just dropped his son off at school in Chilliwack. Nelson was standing on the chassis of the overturned car when Eang showed up wearing his fishing waders.

The two arrived at right around the same time, according to Nelson who said bystanders told him there were people inside.

That’s when the two strangers to each other got to work to try to rescue whoever was in the car.

Into the water Eang went, up to his waist in murky ditch water. Inside the car was 17-year-old Abbotsford student Kyle Ruffell who had been on his way to the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Trades and Technology Centre with his friend Umer Khokhar.

The two are W.J. Mouat secondary students. Ruffell’s aunt Suzzie Harding said the young man is in his final year of high school, accepted into a program where he is taking mechanics at UFV.

Another student who had been travelling in a car behind the two, Garret Visser, was in the ditch holding Ruffell’s head out of the water. Eang said that young man was suffering from the extreme cold, so he took over.

Ruffell suffered broken ribs and both his lungs were punctured, possibly filling with ditch water. He was unconscious. Eang and Nelson could only partially open the door, not enough to really assess Ruffell or pull him out, just enough to hold his head out of the water.

Luckily, Eang had those waders on before he even arrived on the scene.

“I’m not huge into faith and God and all the spiritual things, but something was definitely happening in the universe to put me there wearing fishing waders,” Eang said.

Nelson called for his girlfriend to get an axe out of his truck to use as a tool to pry open the door. Eang cut Ruffell’s seatbelt. And through sheer will and adrenaline-sparked strength, the two eventually wedged the door open enough to yank the young man out.

As they got him out as paramedics arrived. A fire crew was also on scene and they dropped a ladder down the embankment to help get the young man out.

While he was still in the car, trapped, Ruffell did regain consciousness, coughing up water and even opening his eyes.

“I was slapping his face to shock him into being with us,” Eang said. “He had slurred speech, lethargic. He said his name was Kyle.”

Nelson said they were unable to give him CPR and he coughed up the water on his own.

“He’s a strong kid. He saved his own life essentially by being able to start breathing on his own.”

It wasn’t until they got him out that they realized Khokhar was in the back seat, unbuckled up to his neck in water.

“He said ‘I’m cold but I’m good,’” Eang said.

Asked about what he was thinking when he realized someone was trapped in the car, Eang said there was no time to think.

“It was go time, it was a fight-or-flight situation. When I saw that, I knew it was life or death because it was cold… Nobody else was able to enter the water.”

Some are calling Eang and Nelson heroes, something most heroes balk at. In response to comments on social media, Eang said he had to act.

“Thank you to everyone for their kind words. It really was nothing and not helping wasn’t an option.”

Nelson said it’s OK if people want to use the word “hero”, but he hopes others would do the same.

“That’s what I would expect people would do for me or people I love in that situation,” Nelson said.

As for young Kyle Ruffell, he’s not doing well. He is currently at Royal Columbian Hospital in critical condition with his mother at his side.

His aunt Suzzie Harding told The Progress that he was making “teeny tiny” improvements by Thursday, but the doctors aren’t making any promises and that it’s hour by hour at this point.

“We are hoping for the best,” she said, adding that everyone is so grateful for the actions of those on the scene. “He would have drowned if these people did not hold him above water.”

Harding set up a GoFundMe to help her sister – who is a single mother with two other children – with parking and gas to get to-and-from RCH.

• RELATED: No injuries after car lands in Chilliwack ditch

• RELATED: Hope rescue crew remove man pinned in semi-truck on Highway 3


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The view from Sokha Eang’s dashcam video as he stopped on Keith Wilson Road on Feb. 19 to find two teenagers trapped in an upside down car in a water-filled ditch. (Sokha Eang)

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

PHOTOS: Cat owners in Chilliwack celebrate National Kitten Day

Chilliwack Progress readers share photos of their favourite felines on National Kitten Day

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

Foodies flock to drive-thru food truck fest in Chilliwack

The Greater Vancouver Food Truck Festival takes place this weekend at Chilliwack Heritage Park

UPDATE: Four-vehicle collision snarls eastbound highway traffic in Chilliwack

Collision west of Lickman Road on Highway 1 includes three vehicles plus motorcycle

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Most Read