By Tony Lofaro, The Ottawa Citizen - February 24, 2012
Gov. Gen. David Johnston presents a Medal of Bravery to Colleen Taylor at Rideau Hall, Feb. 24, 2012.
Photograph by: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen
Colleen Taylor wasn’t dressed for a water rescue attempt, but that didn’t stop her from saving her neighbour after the woman fell into the icy waters of Jiulia Lake, near Carp.
“I remembering walking out onto the ice cautiously because I had these high-heeled boots on and my leather jacket. I wasn’t wearing any rescue equipment,” said Taylor, 43, an account manager at Champlain LHIN, about the Nov. 28, 2008 incident.
Taylor and her selfless act were recognized at a ceremony Friday morning at Rideau Hall. Gov. Gen. David Johnston presented three Stars of Courage and 43 Medals of Bravery at the ceremony, which honoured eight Ottawans and 38 others from across the country. The Decorations for Bravery were created in 1972 to recognize people who risked their lives to save or protect the lives of others.
Taylor said she also credits her daughter Emma in the rescue attempt of her former neighbour. It was Emma who noticed one of the dogs was in the lake and the neighbour was attempting a rescue. Moments later, the woman fell into the water and Taylor grabbed a dog leash in an effort to rescue her.
“I extended the leash as far as it went, lay down on the ice and tossed it to her. I instructed her to wrap it around her hand and I just dragged her until about six feet from the edge of the ice and then pulled her with my hands,” she said.
“At the time you just do things, it’s very practical and I’m almost embarrassed about getting this award because it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It doesn’t seem like what anybody else wouldn’t do,” she said.
Peter Nesbeth and Lindsy Richardson were OC Transpo Special Constables who didn’t hesitate to rescue a man from a vehicle only moments before it exploded into flames. On Sept. 25, 2008, the elderly man had mistakenly driven his car onto the transitway and afterwards crashed it into a tree near the Billings Bridge transit stop. The constables arrived at the accident scene to find an unconscious man trapped in his car. They pulled him to safety just before the flames erupted.
“I opened up the driver’s side door, the man was inside but he was not responding. I pulled off his seatbelt and basically dragged him out of the car,” said Richardson, 35, now an Ottawa Police constable.
“It was like pulling a heavy rag doll out of the vehicle, there are no leverages or anything,” he said.
Nesbeth said they had followed the errant driver from the east end transitway when he was spotted going the wrong way.
“When I got there the wheels of the car were spinning very fast and there was smoke everywhere. I knew something was wrong,” said Nesbeth, 48.
“I got to the car and there was a lot of smoke, I thought he would pass out from all the smoke. I started pounding on the passenger’s window with my baton, but it broke. So I came around to the driver’s side door and we began to pull him out, but his foot was caught between the gas pedal and the brake. I had to take his shoe off,” he said.
As they began to pull the unconscious man out of the smoky vehicle, an explosion erupted, he said.
“We kind of just dropped him, and we just kind of freaked out, it was frightening. The car then began to go up in flames, so we grabbed him again,” said Nesbeth, adding that the fire department and ambulance arrived shortly afterwards
The story behind bravery awards for three Ottawa police constables is also a gripping one. Const. Karen Mary Desaulniers, Const. Allen George Percival and Const. Avery Curt Flanagan were heading back to headquarters on Oct. 12, 2007 when they heard a call for a van submerged in the Rideau Canal.
It was later discovered that the 50-year-old driver had suffered a heart attack, veered off Colonel By Drive, smashed through a guard rail and plunged into the canal. He was pronounced dead three hours later in hospital.
Desaulniers was the first to jump into the waters. Flanagan and Percival pulled the driver from the van, then all three remained in the frigid water, trying to determine if there was another passenger. “Training mode kicks in and you just kind of go with it,” said Flanagan in a recent interview. “I never really had time to think. You just react.”
Other Ottawa recipients who received Medals of Bravery include Paul George Akehurst and Sgt. Lorraine Fequet.
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