A Maple Ridge bus driver is being hailed as a hero after pulling a man from a ditch last week while at work.
Richie Stanley, a driver for 34 years, was driving the No. 701 bus westbound along Harris Road on Oct. 1, when a man that looked to be in his late 20s boarded at around 9:55 p.m. at Harris and Ford roads.
“You could see he appeared to be upset about something. Right when he boarded the bus, he seemed agitated, but he didn’t seem dangerous,” Stanley said about the man, who was initially stomping his feet a little bit as he walked to the back.
As Stanley drove along Harris, the man jumped up out of his seat and began stomping up and down, behaviour that continued as the bus turned along Lougheed Highway towards the Pitt River Bridge.
By now the man was stomping angrily and staring people down and even approached Stanley, standing by the fare box, swaying from side-to-side, staring at him in a menacing way.
“But he wasn’t going past that. He wasn’t doing anything physical to the people,” said Stanley, who had pulled over at the stop on the east side of the bridge.
“I told him he would either have to get off the bus or sit down quietly,” added Stanley, who felt, at that point, that the man needed of medical attention.
When the man returned to the back of the bus and sat down, Stanley continued along the route, pressing the Priority Request To Talk button to let transit officials know that he might have a problem.
As the bus crossed over the bridge, the man jumped up again in an angry state and then he appeared to have a seizure.
Stanley stopped the bus just before Ottawa Street, by Costco, and asked a passenger to turn him on his side to keep his airway open. Just as he was letting Transit know what had happened, the man jumped up again and ran off the bus.
“I’ve never seen anybody from a state of being unconscious just literally leap up. It was very bizarre,” said Stanley.
The man ran west along Lougheed Highway, veering into traffic, until passengers on the bus lost sight of him.
Stanley drove the bus forward about 400 metres, looking for the man and hoped that he had made it to Dominion Avenue.
But he knew there was a ditch on the side of the road.
Stanley told the rest of the passengers to remain on the bus while he and another got out to look for the man.
After a couple of minutes, they found breaks in the brush along the side of the road by First Memorial Funeral Services and heard water sloshing around.
Stanley took off his coat, holding onto one sleeve, threw the other to the man, who was submerged in the water with only his head and one shoulder above.
“He couldn’t hold onto it for very long. His strength definitely seemed to be fading,” said Stanley, who managed to pull him up only a little bit before the man let go.
When the man slipped briefly underwater, Stanley scrambled down the steep embankment and grabbed onto his wrists, managing to get his head and chest out of the water with a lot of tugging.
“The bank was very steep. I think I would have slipped right into the water if it wasn’t for all the brambles,” Stanley said.
He held onto him them until a police officer showed up. They both took an arm and pulled the man up the embankment to the shoulder of the road, where he became agitated again, attempting to swing his arms around.
Stanley helped the officer until backup arrived.
Paramedics had to strap his arms to the stretcher before taking him away.
Stanley received some minor scrapes to his legs from the brambles in the ditch, but nobody else was injured.
Greg Clark, chief job steward with Unifor 111, Port Coquitlam Transit Centre, thinks what Stanley did is remarkable.
The union represents over 3,700 Metro Vancouver transit operators, with a fleet of over 1,400 vehicles across the Lower Mainland.
“As drivers, we see and do a lot of things that don’t get recognized. It happens every day where somebody is in need of help,” he said.
“But to save the life of somebody in a ditch, that’s a little unique,” he added.
Usually, Clark said, drivers are trained to call 911 or the communication centre.
“But we are not expected to be roaming the street looking in bushes. That’s way beyond. But he did the right thing,” said Clark, adding that Stanley is a dedicated, quiet and decent man who loves his job.
Stanley doesn’t consider himself brave.
”Because, I certainly felt fear,” he said.
“I did think this young guy is the same age as my boys and I was thinking, ‘Jeez, if that was one of my kids,’” Stanley said, his voice trailing off.
“I don’t know, I just thought, ‘Jeez, I hope he makes it home tonight.’”