In just under one year, both David Hillary and Lucas Truman went from West Kelowna residents to West Kelowna heroes.
Hillary, Truman and 21 other British Columbia residents were honored Friday at the Westbank Lions Community Centre with bravery awards from the Royal Canadian Humane Association.
Hillary and Truman rescued West Kelowna resident Irene Barszczewski-Shindelka from her mobile home in Paradise Mobile Home Park when it caught fire on Oct. 31, 2016.
“We came back from trick or treating with the kids and I was sitting out on my deck and I heard three loud bangs,” Hillary said recalling the event. “Next thing I knew, we see these big flames swing overtop of the houses.”
According to the event’s citation, the fire had consumed the home’s front porch with Irene trapped inside the smoke filled burning residence, unable to open the rear door. It was then that Hillary and Truman noticed the smoke, ran to the residence, and vaulted over the fence into the backyard to try to rescue the homeowner.
“I ran into the backyard, jumped the fence, broke out the back window, Lucas helped me grab a ladder, we put it up against the window, and rescued the lady’s life,” Hillary said.
“There were people on the other side of the fence that couldn’t get over,” Truman said. “We were just the more physically fit ones that could get over the fence because they were quite large fences.”
As Truman kept the ladder steady, Hillary climbed up and entered part way through the smoke-filled window where he managed to grab Irene and pull her out through the broken window.
“Just spur of the moment; not much time to think,” Hillary said. “It’s something that had to be done or else somebody might lose their life.”
Barszczewski-Shindelka suffered from smoke inhalation and had injured her shoulder, but she was alive.
For his efforts to save a woman’s life from a burning trailer, Hillary received a Bronze Medal for Bravery, and for his presence of mind and help in the rescue, Truman was awarded an Honorary Testimonial Certificate.
“It’s kind of a nice feeling actually,” Hillary said when asked about being called a hero. “I’m very proud and very honored for me to be recognized.”
“It feels good that people care this much,” Truman said. “Compared to some of the other stories that we hear it’s just amazing.”
During the media interviews, Barszczewski-Shindelka, the woman the pair saved that Halloween night, arrived and gave Truman a hug.
“I wanted to come and thank you,” she said. It was the first time she had seen her rescuers since the night of the fire.
When asked if they would do what they did again, neither man hesitated, saying they “absolutely” would do it again.
Also honored at the ceremony were Clifford Melbrew and Jason Van Wyk, two Cherryville area men who in May 2015 rescued two women and a man without lifejackets from drowning in Sugar Lake.
Melbrew was camping and having dinner when he heard screams for help coming from the lake. He immediately ran to his boat and, joined by his cousin, Van Wyk, they raced to the middle of lake. There they found a capsized boat and three people floundering in the choppy, freezing water.
The victims were in shock and extremely cold, with no strength left to climb into the boat on their own. They were wrapped in blankets and placed next to a heater aboard the boat.
The awards are the result of saving or attempting to save a life from incidents including fires, motor vehicle accidents, drownings, crime prevention, and medical emergencies. Recipients came from all across the province.