An elderly couple escaped a car accident without harm following the efforts of one fast-acting RCMP officer.
When an SUV crashed through a Surrey, B.C., backyard and into a swimming pool in December 2021, Cst. Ngawang Gonpo was the first officer on the scene.
Thanks to his knowledge of the neighbourhood, Gonpo knew exactly where to go after hearing the address over the police radio. He arrived within minutes of the 911 call.
Seeing the vehicle almost fully submerged, I knew there might be a swim for me," says Gonpo, recalling when he first arrived on scene.
The homeowner and a neighbour were already in the pool but couldn't open the car doors. As they held on to the vehicle from the back to prevent it from slipping farther into the deep end, water filled the SUV, eventually reaching the occupants' chins. Quick action was key as there was no way to stop water from seeping into the sinking two-ton vehicle.
Gonpo jumped into the pool and reassured the occupants that he was there to help and get them out. The front-passenger window was already open, but opening the door would make rescuing the occupants easier. Fighting against the water pressure, he managed to wrestle open the door.
I was trying and trying and trying and then I heard a bubble and it opened," says Gonpo.
The passenger was able to get out of the car but the driver, who Gonpo could see was breathing, appeared unconscious or in shock.
There was no verbal communication at all," says Gonpo. "
I was yelling out to him, 'Hold onto me! Hold onto me!' and then I felt his hand."
After that, Gonpo reached inside and helped the driver out of the car and the pool. By that time, other first responders were on scene and began tending to the rescued couple.
Despite being shaken up, the pair appeared to escape the incident without any physical injuries. Emergency medical responders took the couple to hospital as a precaution.
Rapid response key
Gonpo, who has worked in Surrey for the last six and a half years, says he credits his police training for keeping him calm and collected throughout the incident. But, he says things might not have gone as smoothly without the homeowner and neighbour springing into action so quickly and helping out during the incident.
We respond to (emergency) calls like this every day," says Gonpo. "This case shows how the public and police can work together during an emergency." After a teeth-chattering drive back to the detachment, Gonpo dried himself and his uniform before going back on the road to respond to other calls.
Police are still investigating what caused the accident.