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Workers Recognized for Life-saving Actions

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They are heroes.

A team of seven employees at the Fort McMurray Water Treatment Plant (WTP) who helped save the life of a co-worker in May were presented with certificates of appreciation by members of Council Thursday, June 19.

The certificates, presented to Brenda Carew, labourer; Lorraine White, administrative assistant; Michele George, summer student; Melanie McMaster, administrative assistant; Peter Haitas, light duty mechanic; Les Collins, plumber/gasfitter, and Guy Jette, manager, WTP, read that “…Council and the citizens of the Regional Municipality are honoured to recognize you for your effort and dedication in saving the life of a co-worker.”

Without a doubt, the actions of the seven on May 16, had everything to do with their co-worker, Harold St. Croix, being present at the event Thursday to express his gratitude.

“My doctor has told me that only two per cent of the people who experience what I did survive,” St. Croix told the gathering, which included Mayor Melissa Blake, Councilors Tyran Ault, Guy Boutilier, Lance Bussieres, Keith McGrath and Jane Stroud; Interim Chief Administrative Officer Marcel Ulliac; Chief Operating Officer Brian Makey, Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen, Acting CUPE 1505 President Rina Seppen and CUPE 1505 Vice President Alice Lerchs.

“The actions taken by these first responders made the difference,” St. Croix said.

Photo of Harold St. Croix and his seven rescuers

Harold St. Croix and the seven heroes: from left (back row) Melanie McMaster, Guy Jette, St. Croix, Michele George, Peter Haitas and Les Collins; (front row) Brenda Carew and Lorraine White.

At the June 19 recognition ceremony, St. Croix also received two special gifts. One was some framed Montreal Canadians player cards signed by the team members. The second was a large Canadiens flag signed by those present at the recognition event.

George, the summer student who ran to get a defibrillator May 16, left a poignant written message for St. Croix on the Habs flag. It read: “I enjoyed working with you, but next time, let’s avoid the drama….”

And there was life-or-death drama in the parking lot of the WTP at noon that day.

Neither Jette nor Collins was meant to be there that day. Jette had an appointment at noon elsewhere and it was Collins’ day off. But, as it happened, both were on site just before noon.

St. Croix had gone to and from Fort MacKay that morning with George. When they returned to the WTP before noon, he announced that he was going to get some lunch.

Carew, a colleague, noticed St. Croix was still sitting in his pickup a few minutes later, so she made a point of walking over to the vehicle to ask him if everything was all right.

He responded he didn’t feel well and, seconds later, his head fell back.

Photo of Harold St. Croix and Guy Jette

Harold St. Croix (left) and Guy Jette.

Carew knew that something was very wrong.

Jette heard a loud cry of alarm from the parking lot at the same time as Collins. They rushed to the pickup and, by this time, Carew had dialed 911 and turned the phone over to McMaster, who was speaking with the dispatcher.

Collins and Jette agreed they needed to move St. Croix from the vehicle, which they did. “He wasn’t responding, he was starting to turn colour and he wasn’t breathing,” Collins said later.

After protecting the unconscious worker’s head, checking airways and the jugular vein, Jette called for the first aid kit and the defibrillator, which George — who had been on the job for just five days — ran to get.

Meanwhile, Collins and Jette applied mouth-to-mouth and chest compression. When there were still no signs of breathing activity, they applied the defibrillator.

Seeking to connect with and get a reaction from Habs fan St. Croix, Jette told him it was no time to take a nap: Montreal was playing the next day.

By then, Carew had gone to the road junction to direct Emergency Services on which route to use to reach the scene.

The defibrillator reported “Analyzing patient,” then “Continue with CPR,” then “Analyzing patient” again before “Stand clear.”

The machine issued an electric current through electrodes to the heart.

“We just followed the machine’s instructions,” Jette said.

Both Collins and Jette continued with mouth-to-mouth and chest compression until Emergency Services arrived and a paramedic announced, “He’s alive… We’ll take it from here.”

Haitas, the light duty mechanic, also on the scene, said the stars aligned in St. Croix’s favor that day.

The others share that view.

“Our maintenance foreman checked the defibrillators the day before,” Jette said. “Second, the worker was in a truck driving in a rural area with a summer student earlier in the day and all went well. Third is that there were a lot of people here to help who normally wouldn’t have been here.”

St. Croix was transported to hospital in Fort McMurray and then flown to Edmonton for evaluation. He has received medical treatment and the prognosis is good.

Of one fact, all team members agree: Their safety training has paid off big time. Both Haitas and Jette have completed first aid training and Collins has advanced first aid and he is also a volunteer firefighter with the Saprae Creek Fire Department.

Of one fact, a doctor is certain: Had it not been for the alertness and caring of his co-workers and their first aid training and action that day, St. Croix would not likely have survived the incident.

Seppen, the acting CUPE 1505 president, commended the municipality for its commitment to employee safety and its support of safety training.

“The presence of AEDs (automated external defibrillator) as well as CPR training at the workplace saves lives, plain and simple,” Seppen said.

“It is commendable that the RMWB believes in this and it is extraordinary that the workers were so quick to put their training into use. Diligently watching out for each other for health and safety issues like this is a part of the overall comradery of this work site.”

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