Richie Stanley has always wondered what happened to the stranger he saved a year ago, on that dark, rainy night on Lougheed Highway.
Stanley, a TransLink bus driver on the 701 route last October, rescued a man in his 20s who had plunged into a ditch and was struggling to get out of the water in freezing weather.
Stanley admits, he was a little scared wading into the ditch because he didn’t know if he’d get out again. “There was a lot of mud and nothing really to hold on to except a few brambles. I thought about it and realized, I had to do something.”
For his efforts, the Maple Ridge man, now retired, is being awarded the bronze medal from the Royal Canadian Humane Association – Canada Bravery Awards. He’ll be presented the medal in Kelowna, this Friday, by Lieut.-Gen. Janet Austin.
“It was a bit of a surprise for me,” Stanley said Monday.
The man had boarded his bus at about 10 p.m. in Pitt Meadows, at Harris and Ford roads, and started acting erractically. He appeared to have a seizure on the bus and recovered, But by the time the bus had crossed the Pitt River on Lougheed Highway and was in Coquitlam, the man ran off the bus and on to the road.
Stanley stopped his bus and on a hunch and, on an inkling, using the light of his cellphone, started searching on foot for the passenger. A break in the brushes beside the road led him to the man who was foundering in a ditch.
“I think he thought he could run across, and he didn’t realize he was going to run into a ditch,” Stanley said.
“He was in the water and couldn’t get out. He needed help.”
When the man slipped briefly under water, Stanley scrambled down the steep embankment and grabbed on to his wrists, managing to get his head and chest out of the water with a lot of tugging.
He also tossed the man one sleave of his jacket and eventually, he was able to grab him and hold him there as he waited for police. He said he was glad the man was able to get some medical help.
His sister Laila Stewart called it a bizarre and dramatic story adding that the bus was stopped at the roadside for awhile. She says her brother is a great guy. “He loved driving and he loved dealing with passengers,” said Stewart.
Stanley had been driving bus for 34 years and said it’s been an interesting career. He said there has always been problems of some sort with passengers and that the violence today is no worse than it was three decades ago. He added that he’s always tried to help out passengers.
Driving bus is good job for those who like people, he added. “I’d recommend it to anybody.”
On that cold October night, after just saving a stranger’s life in an autumn storm, he just went back to work. “I had to go back and finish my shift after that and I was soaking wet.”