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Firefighter recalls lifesaving rescue of woman trapped in flipped, submerged car on Burnside

Dec 11 2012

A woman's hand sticking out of a car window under about a metre of water was all one firefighter could see when he ran into frigid ditch water along Burnside Road West.

View Royal acting fire chief Lt. Rob Marshall was one of the first emergency responders on the scene early Saturday after a crash near the TransCanada Highway left a woman unconscious and trapped in an upside-down car with her head under water.

The woman was the sole passenger in the car when the driver lost control while heading north on Burnside just after midnight Saturday, police said Monday.

The car knocked over a lamp post, rolled down a steep slope and landed on its roof in about a metre of water.

Marshall could see only the hand illuminated by his flashlight.

He was one of two firefighters at the scene alongside two police officers.

The four raised the passenger side of the car, exposing the windows and lifting the unconscious woman out of the water.

From there, they cut her seatbelt and pulled her out through the broken back window. Paramedics then took her to hospital.

"We were able to get her out and get a pulse back," Marshall said. "She had a pulse when she left - that's a big deal for us."

He knew the car's engine was still running because he could hear the fan belt hitting the water as they worked to get the woman free.

He also saw a young man in the water, who said the woman was submerged for about four or five minutes. "I couldn't tell if he was with them in the car or if he was from a car that stopped on the road," Marshall said.

The woman was taken to Victoria General Hospital and treated for life-threatening injuries. People who say they know the woman told the Times Colonist she is doing OK and will survive, but none would speak publicly about what happened.

West Shore RCMP made an arrest Saturday morning in connection with the crash, but have not laid charges. Spokeswoman Kathy Rochlitz said there is a "significant difference between making an arrest and charging someone," but gave no details.

Rescuers who pulled the woman from the car say she is lucky to be alive.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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