NEW GLASGOW – It was hard for Jamie Jardine of Westville to hold back the tears as the people who saved his life two summers ago were recognized. Three local citizens were awarded for their bravery and presence of mind on Saturday for pulling Jardine out of the East River in July 2011.
For their courageous efforts in saving a person from a life threatening situation, the Royal Canadian Humane Association’s Bronze Medal for Bravery was awarded to Donald Gunton and Const. Anthony Thomas. For her presence of mind, Barbara Smith was awarded the honorary testimonial certificate. The presentations were made at the New Glasgow Regional Police Services building and given by MP Peter MacKay.
“You are an inspiration to all citizens in putting service before self,” said Mackay.
On July 5, 2011, Barbara Smith was waiting to turn onto George Street in New Glasgow when she heard a clanking noise and saw what she thought was a bicycle tumbling down the bank into the East River. She quickly realized it was a powered wheelchair in which Jamie Jardine was strapped. She found Const. Anthony Thomas, who went to the scene immediately. Donald Gunton also witnessed the accident and met Const. Thomas at the scene: a man lying backwards strapped to his powered wheelchair almost completely submerged in the water.
“I saw that Anthony needed help,” said Gunton. “He told me to get some rope from his car but when I couldn’t find it, I just went down in the water to help get Jamie out. I followed Anthony’s lead.”
While Thomas and Gunton knew Jardine was hurt, the full extent of his injuries would only be known later. He sustained a fractured skull, a compression fracture of three vertebrae as well as several lacerations.
Jardine thought he was going to die in the river that day and was visited by his deceased brother.
“After I fell, I opened my eyes and he was there. He told me, ‘Jamie, it’s not your time to die’.”
Eventually, Jardine freed himself from the chair and the two rescuers pulled him out of the water just as the tide was rising. By that time EMS had arrived and took Jardine to the hospital.
“Honestly, it’s just instinct,” said Thomas. “You hear someone yelling you help them out.”
He recalled a situation in his youth when he was kicking a football with his friends in a hayfield. When his friend went to kick the ball he instead kicked a pitchfork.
“I took control and calmed people down so he could get fixed up. I guess I’ve been able to do that since age 16.”
Jardine is forever grateful for what has been done for him.
“That Anthony and Donald are pretty good fellas,” he said. “It’s good to know there are good people in Pictou County.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn