Brian Vanderlinde gives every impression of being uncomfortable with the word “hero.”
When asked a direct question he is liable to shrug and look away. His answers are short, and straightforward.
His wife leans in with a smile. “Brian is a very modest person.”
But modesty wasn’t the quality Vanderlinde drew on, when he jumped into a fast flowing creek and used an axe to smash the back window of an overturned and submerged car, crawled though the broken glass into the vehicle and wrestled an unconscious toddler to safety.
Vanderlinde, who lives in Keremeos, and Gary Lind of Princeton were honored Wednesday with the BC Ambulance Good Samaritan Award.
Vanderlinde was driving on Highway 5A near Princeton with his 12-year-old son, on October 17, 2017, when he came across the scene.
“I was trying to figure out why there was a wet lady on the road,” he said.
The woman screamed: “My son! My son!”
Vanderlinde then saw the car, upside down in the water.
He recalls looking at his own child. “I said ‘sorry’ and then I handed him my phone and told him to call 911.”
Vanderlinde wasn’t able to open any of the vehicle’s doors. He tried without success to kick in the rear window.
When asked if the water was cold Vanderlinde said: “I didn’t really notice.”
When asked what he was thinking, he said: “I was just doing.”
As he was scrambling on the bank, looking for a rock to break the glass, a local truck driver, Gary Lind, arrived and threw an axe to Vanderlinde.
He broke the window and struggled to release the boy, who was suspended by his seat belt, underwater. Once he was freed Vanderlinde said: “It just looked like, in his eyes, he was dead.”
Lind took the three-year-old and began resuscitation efforts. A doctor who was also on the highway stopped and took over treatment, just before paramedics arrived.
Vanderlinde said he experienced great relief when bubbles started coning from the boy’s mouth “and then his eyes kind of came back…he was back.”
Paramedic Daniel Peacock, who nominated the two men for the Good Samaritan Award, said their “quick thinking and selfless actions…saved the life of a child.”
RCMP reported shortly after the incident that the child was underwater for approximately three minutes, but made a full recovery.