Neighbours and fire crews rush to rescue woman trapped under fallen tree
Published Saturday, October 26, 2019 1:08PM PDT Last Updated Saturday, October 26, 2019 6:37PM PDT
VANCOUVER - Jacqueline Fefer says she feels lucky to be alive – and is grateful to her neighbour for rushing to save her life – after she was trapped under a fallen tree and heavy plywood during Friday’s wind storm.
Fefer is now recovering at home with a dozen broken ribs, a heart contusion, bruises and cuts.
But she says it could have been so much worse if she had been in a slightly different position when the tree fell – or if her neighbour, Dale Pugh, hadn’t heard her screams and found her in time.
Fefer remembers coming home from work on Friday, and deciding to go for a run. She decided against running in a forested park near her Point Grey home because of the high winds.
But then: “I remember hearing a crack and it felt like a wall just came down on me.”
Fefer had become trapped under a fallen tree and a piece of plywood from a nearby construction site. She remembers the feeling of being crushed, and realizing her ribs were cracking.
"I could just yell a few times and then I couldn’t breathe anymore and I just passed out.”
Pugh was in his backyard in his Point Grey home near Crown Street and 13th Avenue when he heard a call for help.
“I went down there to check out what happened and sure enough there was someone trapped … underneath some plywood that had come down with the tree, some plywood fencing,” Pugh said.
“She was able to keep calling out, but then that was it, she went quiet.”
Pugh ran back to his house to grab a chainsaw and a jack. He used the jack to prop up the tree to take pressure off the woman, and then started cutting limbs off the tree.
“To be honest, I thought she wasn’t breathing any more when I was cutting away,” Pugh said. “The last thing that she said was ‘I can’t breathe’ and then she didn’t say anything more.”
When Vancouver Fire and Rescue responded at around 2 p.m., the woman was “not very responsive,” said assistant fire chief Richard Warnock.
“It was really hard to see where she was and they had to cut away a lot of limbs of the tree to get access.”
Fire crews had to use a rescue technique called cribbing, which involves building a box of wood to take some of the weight of the fallen tree off of the victim.
“She was under a lot of pressure from the tree and the branches that were on top of her,” Warnock said.
Fefer woke up in an ambulance, being transported to hospital.
"Life doesn’t flash before your eyes – all I could think of is that this is a really stupid way of dying,” she said.
Other trees on her street have previously come down in wind storms, and Fefer would like to see the City of Vancouver assess trees to make sure they’re healthy and stable.
“It seems to be when there’s high winds, there’s inevitably trees that are falling,” she said.
Windspeeds for Friday's wind storm reached 78 kilometres per hour, measured at Vancouver International Airport. Powerful wind storms wallop the Lower Mainland every fall and winter. In 2016, a 15-year-old boy died in Surrey when a tree fell on him. In 2018, a man had to be rescued when the White Rock pier was heavily damaged during a storm.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Emad Agahi