A Cowichan-area family is offering its thanks to those who took part in rescuing the driver of a motor home involved in a head-on collision.
The crash happened Sept. 9 on the Island Highway near the Duke Point Highway turnoff when a car being driven into oncoming traffic slammed into a motor home, trapping the RV’s 81-year-old driver behind the wheel as the wreck ignited underneath him.
The driver and his wife, whose family has asked that they not be identified, are recovering in hospital.
Janet Patterson, the couple’s daughter-in-law, contacted the News Bulletin Thursday to offer an update on the couple’s condition and extend the family’s gratitude to Good Samaritans who stopped to help by discharging fire extinguishers to contain the fire and to the police, ambulance crews and firefighters who attended the scene.
Patterson said her father-in-law, who suffered burns and multiple other injuries, is being treated in the Vancouver General Hospital burn and trauma unit where doctors are assessing his condition day by day.
The couple was travelling with a convoy of RVs from the Courtenay-Comox area to Rondalyn Resort and RV Park near Ladysmith the day of the crash, which claimed the life of Ryan James Jackson, 20, of Nanaimo.
Derek Bayly, a logging equipment mechanic who lives in South Wellington, was among the first people to stop and lend a hand.
He had just pulled onto the highway after stopping to refuel his work truck when he came upon the wreck, which had just started to burn.
“I’m required to carry two five-pound fire extinguishers in my truck at all times, so out of just instinct, I jumped out, got in the back seat, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran over there,” Bayly said.
“I was the only one there at the time with a fire extinguisher.”
Bayly discharged the fire extinguisher underneath the motorhome where he saw flames then ran around to the other side and knocked down a second fire.
“Then I’m wandering around just checking if there’s any other spots where there’s fire and I look inside and I see the driver of the motorhome’s legs trapped underneath the thing and flames all around him, so I just stuck the nozzle in and just let her go,” Bayly said.
By this time seven to eight other people from the RV convoy and other vehicles had joined in to help.
The first firefighters from Nanaimo Fire Rescue Station No.4, A Platoon, arrived on scene minutes after the crash and controlled the fire as one of their team entered the motorhome and pulled Patterson’s father-in-law from the wreckage.
“I’m actually really glad I had fire extinguishers because I think if I wasn’t on site first that thing would’ve went up,” Bayly said.
Ron Dawley, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations, who arrived shortly after the crew from Station No. 4, said initial efforts by Bayly and others bought time.
“That probably bought the available time for our crew as they showed up and realize there was a guy still stuck behind the steering wheel,” Dawley said.