By Christopher Foulds
A Kamloops woman is thanking a passerby for rescuing her from her vehicle after it slid off icy Schubert Drive and into the frigid North Thompson River.
Tracy Smith said she was driving south on Schubert Drive at 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26, en route to her North Kamloops home after a shopping trip.
Smith told Kamloops This Week she was travelling about 40 km/hr on Schubert when she hit some ice outside of Arthur Hatton Elementary, shortly after going over a speed bump.
Her 1995 Mustang then began skidding toward a truck parked at the side of the road, next to the school field.
“And I thought I was going to smash into it, so I tried to turn the wheel away from it and I may have over-corrected,” Smith said. “I just totally lost control at that point. It just started gaining momentum and doing circles. And I knew it was going to go into the river for sure. I just, you know, tried not to panic. And I put my window down as I was going over the embankment because I figured if I went into the water, I want to be able and ready to get out.”
Smith said her car careened between two trees and over the embankment sideways, avoiding a rollover and ending up nose-first in the river, its rear wheels on an iced-over portion of the waterway.
When it came to a stop, the airbags deployed, creating a strong chemical smell she thought was a fire.
As Smith unbuckled her seatbelt, she tried to open her door, but it wouldn’t budge.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to get out of here with all my stuff?’ Because I had just gone shopping, you know?” she said.
It was then she looked out the window and behind her she saw a man at the top of the embankment, holding a cellphone.
Smith said he asked if she was OK. She said she was, but that she needed help getting out of the vehicle, which she was afraid was going to inch forward and sink under the ice.
“I was so scared,” Smith said.
That is where the passerby — Tyler Mundreon — got to work.
He scrambled down the embankment amid a temperature of about -20 C (colder with the wind chill) and reached the Mustang, standing in the bone-chilling water as he helped Smith from the car.
“I climbed out the window and he made sure that I didn’t get wet at all from the water of the river,” Smith said. “He deposited me onto the rocks and then he turned my car off. And then he went ahead of me up the embankment and made little footholds for me. About halfway up, I couldn’t go any farther and he just said, ‘put your foot on that tree there’ and he held his hand down and pulled me up the rest of the way. I was so scared and so cold.”
Smith and her saviour then warmed up in his truck and waited for first responders to arrive.
Mundreon told KTW he simply did what anybody else would do in such a situation.
He said he was driving north on Schubert when he saw Smith’s oncoming Mustang spin out and go over the embankment.
“I did what any good person would do. I called 911 and went to see if I could offer any assistance,” Mundreon said. “And, yeah, she was obviously pretty shaken up. So I slid down the bank and helped her out of her vehicle there and we both climbed back to the top.”
As he stood in the freezing water, helping Smith out of her Mustang, Mundreon was wearing simple skater shoes.
Thankfully, he had an extra pair of boots in his truck.
“Yeah, it was a pretty crazy afternoon,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse, for sure. When I first saw the car go over the embankment, I thought it was going to be real bad. By the time I got down there, it was pretty clear that we had to move fast to get her out of there.”
Mundreon said his family was happy he was able to help, as were the police officer, paramedics and firefighters who responded to the call.
“From my point of view, any decent person would have stopped to help,” Mundreon said. “I mean, you know, I don’t think of myself as doing anything extraordinary here. It’s just one person helping another.”
Physically, Smith is fine. Emotionally, she is still shaken. Bur her beloved Mustang appears to be a write-off.
Smith said Mundreon’s actions were indeed heroic.
“Most people would just stop and start videotaping until emergency services got there,” she said. “Not him. He was in the water and he literally held me and walked me over to the bank and put me down.”
Fortunately, Smith’s husband was also able to retrieve all of her belongings from the car.
While Smith has nothing but praise for Mundreon, she said the condition of Schubert Drive left much to be desired.
“It was a sheet of ice and the [RCMP] constable that was there, she made a call to the city and told them to get this thing sanded or we’re going to have more than one person going over the edge.”
Added Mundreon: “From what I saw, she wasn’t going that fast. So, definitely, it doesn’t take much.”
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