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Rescuers say "anyone would have done it"

Diane and Kevin Meda with a photo of Dan Balcaen, who is currently working out of town.
March 11, 2013 - 2:14 PM

By Charlotte Helston

For the family that pulled a woman out of a burning car, the reality of their heroic deed is only just sinking in.

It's been little over a week since Diane Meda, her son Kevin, and her fiancé Dan Balcaen rescued Margaret Hollingsworth, 77, from a fiery end on the side of Highway 6 in Cherryville.

"She has 30 great grandchildren, she wasn't ready to go anywhere," Diane Meda says.

The Medas were driving separately from Balcaen. They'd all been for dinner together.

"If we'd taken a little longer, ordered something else, would she have made it?" wonders Diane Meda. "It gives me goosebumps."

But their timing was impeccable. On quiet Highway 6, around 9:30 p.m. Balcaen noticed a fiery glow lighting up the dark on the edge of the road. A car hit a tree and was on fire with someone inside.

"I could see an arm waving from the driver's side window," Balcaen says. Hollingsworth had her seatbelt off and was trying to escape the vehicle, but the impact had crushed the door closed.

Balcaen rushed into the ditch and began prying the door open.

"We didn't know it was him," Diane Meda says. "I told my son, get out and help, and when we got down, (Balcaen) was already there."

Kevin Meda assisted Balcaen in bending back the door frame—with nothing but their own hands—and pulling Hollingsworth out of the car. Along with Diane Meda, they pulled Hollingsworth to safety.

A minute later, the entire vehicle burst into flames. Hollingsworth suffered a gash and breathing difficulties, but miraculously had not a single burn on her body.

There was no cell service in the area, so Balcaen rushed to a nearby residence to use a landline to call 911.

Diane Meda flagged down a vehicle full of people. One of them knew first aid. With blankets and paper towel scrounged up by the bystanders, she put pressure on the bleeding and made Hollingsworth as comfortable as possible before the ambulance arrived to rush her to Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

"I didn't know at the time I was saving someone's life," says Balcaen, a log truck driver. "I just went on instinct."

Hollingsworth has since been released from the intensive care unit and is home with her daughter in Nakusp. But she didn't leave Vernon without meeting her rescuers.

"We just hugged each other and had a moment, it was surreal," Diane Meda says. "We'll be lifelong friends."

Hollingsworth will have to drive right by the Meda's Cherryville house when she makes the journey from Nakusp to Vernon. And Diane says her door will always be open.

"I told her, I'll be able to see you go by, so you better come in," Diane Meda says.

The family says they would risk their safety again to save another.

"It makes my heart feel so good," Diane Meda says. "It was a great thing we did, but anyone would have done it."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call (250)309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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