Gold River hero receives Medal of Bravery

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Paul Rowe of Gold River was the first on the scene when a car ran off the Number 3 Highway into the ocean.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Paul Rowe receives a Medal of Bravery at Province House December 4.</p>

What started off as a relaxing cup of late afternoon tea on November 3 quickly turned into a harrowing struggle in the ocean for Paul Rowe of Gold River.

Rowe helped save the life of a 33-year-old woman whose car veered off the road in front of his home on Highway 3 and began to sink in the ocean.

And then he went back to check the vehicle, which was submerged some 20 metres off shore, to make sure there were no other occupants.

Rowe's efforts earned him a spot as one of the four recipients of a 2018 Nova Scotia Medal of Bravery presented this December 4 at Province House in Halifax.

The Medal of Bravery is awarded each year to people who have risked their life protecting the life or property of others.

"Those being honoured today chose courage over fear, ignoring the danger to themselves to help fellow citizens. Their bravery is an inspiration and this recognition is well-deserved," Premier Stephen McNeil was quoted saying in a news release.

Rowe told LighthouseNOW he and his wife had just settled down in their living room to enjoy a cup of tea when they heard a crash from across the road.

"I ran down and looked out and sort of saw a little bit of the roof of the car sticking out of the water," he said, adding that he heard screaming coming from the car.

He waded in but couldn't get into the vehicle initially.

"I was the first person at the car, and I banged on it, basically just to let the person know inside that there was somebody there."

RCMP would later report that they had registered the Volkswagen Tiguan travelling 130 km an hour in the 70 km/hour zone and had an officer nearby who stopped to assist Rowe and another man who was helping.

Rowe was able to open the passenger door, and they found the woman floating at the top of the inside of the vehicle with only inches of air between the water swirling around her and the ceiling.

They pulled out the woman, whom Rowe says continued to scream. They were unable to determine from her whether there were other occupants in the vehicle.

He reports that the RCMP officer took the woman to shore and requested that he check the vehicle again.

Rowe said he opened the back door and saw there was a baby seat.

"And the seat was empty. I sort of went cold at that point," says Rowe.

"What flashed in my mind was that when our kids were little, they weren't very old when they were able to figure out how to unbuckle themselves.

"My concern was, was the lady screaming, trying to communicate there was someone in the car? Or was it just a shock response? I didn't know."

He says he and the others established as best they could that there wasn't anybody else in the car. However, he says it was only after the car was towed from the water and the vehicle was searched that he was confident everybody was accounted for.

The woman was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Rowe reports he's had no further contact with her.

"I didn't, but one of the gals at the fire department is a friend of hers, and I got a message that she was recovering, and so on, and was quite grateful for the help she got."

Rachelle Marie Dulong of Halifax County, who is now 34, was charged with dangerous driving. Her trial was scheduled to be held this month.

Rowe says it's "an honour" to receive the bravery medal, however he says, "To be quite honest, all this limelight I don't do well in it.

"It's a bit of a conspiracy of neighbours that put my name forward for this. There's an awful lot of attention here and, from my perspective, it's really just do what anybody would do," said Rowe.

In receiving the medal, Rowe is joined by Jules Dufour of Halifax, Kevin Tough of West Pennant, Halifax Regional Municipality and Bruce Knocton of Milford, Hants County.

Unknown to each other, Dufour and Tough had broken down the door of a burning home on Nightingale Drive in Halifax, where they found and rescued a young man who had been asleep downstairs, along with two family pets.

Knocton, a deputy with Sheriff Services, came upon a head-on collision while travelling on Highway 102 near Exit 13 in Colchester County, where one vehicle was on fire.

He climbed into the burning car and helped the driver, an unconscious woman, and remained with her until emergency responders arrived.

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