June 27, 2013 - 4:15 PM
A daring rescue operation back in February 2012 earned a Keremeos Constable and Princeton man special recognition from the RCMP Southeast district today. Const. Mike Leiding and civilian Dave Groff were both pinned with bronze medals for bravery today for their joint efforts in saving the lives of two girls from the Similkameen River.
Const. Leiding was driving down Highway 3 near Princeton early on the morning of February 11, 2012 when he noticed a distressed woman along the river bank.
"She was all bloodied," he said today, recalling the event.
The woman and her three sisters were trapped in their vehicle which slid off the icy highway, down an embankment and into the freezing Similkameen River. She was pulled to the shore by one of her sisters who managed to escape from the back seat of the vehicle through a broken window. While two of the girls lay injured, clutching onto a rock in the strong river current, she managed to climb back up to the road to flag down help.
It was at that point Const. Leiding, who was on traffic patrol, pulled to the side of the road. Driving his snow plow truck in the opposite direction Groff also pulled over to assist the officer. Together they climbed down the embankment and managed to pull the two girls onto the rocks from the freezing water, wrapping them in blankets to prevent hypothermia setting in.
Without concern for their own safety, both men plunged back into the freezing water in an attempt to rescue the last sister trapped behind the steering wheel of the overturned car which had been wedged between boulders. Despite their efforts they could not pull the girl out or turn the vehicle over. They were unable to save her life.
"I held her by the leg, I could feel under the water but her seatbelt was holding her back.... I'm sure she was gone by that point," he says.
Recalling the incident today, Groff says it was fortunate he was there but hopes something like that never happens again. It's sometimes the case civilians will benevolently help police officers but Const. Leiding says Groff went above and beyond in his actions.
"He got really involved," Leiding said today, remembering how Groff was so stiffened from the freezing water he himself needed to be pulled up the river bank.
Groff pointed to his collar bone, "Oh I was right to here," he says.
Groff says both he and Leiding put in requests for barriers along that stretch of Highway 3, which are now in place to prevent similar accidents in the future.
"It's pretty scary stuff," he says, but it didn't stop him or Leiding from jumping into the water to save a life.
The awards were handed out today at an RCMP medal ceremony held at the Manteo Resort. RCMP officers, civilian employees and volunteers along with community members from the Southeast District area were honoured with long service medals in addition to awards of distinction. The event was hosted by RCMP Southeastern District Officer Chief Superintendent Mike Sekela with the B.C. RCMP Commanding Officer Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens presenting.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013