Nelson fire chief Simon Grypma calls it a “firefighter’s worst nightmare.”
It happened one day this month: the acting captain on duty received a frantic call from his wife that she and their two children had been in a serious crash with a minivan near the Taghum bridge.
Although she said they were okay, the captain could hear his children screaming and crying in the background.
(For the privacy of the family, Grypma isn’t disclosing their names.)
Soon after the fire dispatch received numerous calls reporting a crash involving two vehicles and at least six people.
Grypma, the acting captain, and another firefighter responded. Grypma assumed command, and reported an initial assessment to the other responders and dispatch. Police were also there directing traffic.
“Both vehicles involved in the incident had left the road and one was mounted precariously on the train tracks obstructing rail traffic,” Grypma said in a written statement.
Fire dispatch contacted CP Rail to stop all rail traffic through the area. The captain’s wife and children were found in the second vehicle on the highway shoulder.
The captain attended to his wife’s cuts and bruises, while another firefighter helped the four occupants of the minivan.
Within minutes, BC Ambulance paramedics arrived and also attended to the seven crash victims.
Grypma says after based on their initial assessments of the patients the condition of both vehicles, “it was clear that a major tragedy had been averted.”
Initial reports indicate the minivan crossed the centre line and sideswiped the car driven by the captain’s wife.
“Her quick reaction to the oncoming vehicle averted a head on crash,” Grypma says.
She and the two children were taken to Kootenay Lake Hospital to be treated for minor injuries, along with one person from the other vehicle.
“A heartfelt thank you is extended to all the emergency responders that attended the scene and provided assistance to patients involved in this incident,” Grypma says.
“This is a firefighter’s worst nightmare and during my 35 years with the department I know all too well the gut wrenching number of times that first responders working in small communities respond to their own family emergencies.
“As the chief I am very proud to see and report the actions of our firefighters during these incidents.”