At around 4:20 am on Tuesday, a BC Ambulance crew transferred a patient from Tofino to the West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni, and started their return trip along the winding Pacific Rim Highway. They were almost home when their ambulance left the road and plunged down a 60-metre embankment into Kennedy Lake.
The BC Ambulance Service reported Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka, their two paramedics with more than 35 years of service between them, missing to the Port Alberni RCMP later that morning. Shortly afterwards a highway worker discovered the path the vehicle had taken as it veered off the road, which led to discovery of the ambulance submerged under nine metres of water. By the afternoon, with the search along the lakeshore proving fruitless, RCMP divers found the bodies of the two paramedics inside the rig.
Paramedics normally save lives. For two of them to lose theirs in the line of duty is a loss keenly felt in the paramedic community and throughout the communities of Vancouver Island, but most of all by the families and friends of those who died. Our condolences and prayers go out to the Fuller and Polivka families as they struggle through this dark and difficult time. We hope they can come to grips with the melancholy pride that goes with losing a loved one who died in service of others.
Our thoughts too are with the hundreds of men and women, from the oil fields of Northern BC to downtown Vancouver, who continue to respond to medical emergencies at all hours of the day and night travelling routes that are alternately icy, winding and isolated.
Stay safe, folks.