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‘No time to think twice’: Surrey Mountie says jumping into pool to save seniors just a part of his job

Const. Ngawang Gonpo rushed to the scene Dec. 15 to rescue couple from a submerged vehicle
A Surrey RCMP officer jumped into a pool to pull two elderly people out of a vehicle in Surrey on Wednesday. (RCMP handout)

Surrey RCMP Const. Ngawang Gonpo said “there was no time to think twice” to rescue a couple in their 80s whose vehicle had plunged into a cold pool last week.

On Wednesday (Dec. 15), Gonpo was involved in a dramatic rescue after a vehicle veered off the road and went into a swimming pool.

Const. Sarbjit Sangha told the Now-Leader that preliminary reports indicate that a vehicle, with two elderly occupants inside, lost control and veered off the road near the 16500-block of Glenwood Crescent South.

The vehicle went through a fence, into a swimming pool and “quickly submerged.”

The homeowners phoned 911, and Gonpo arrived within a couple of minutes and jumped into the pool, police said.

Gonpo, who has been working in that neighbourhood for more than six years, said he was on his third call of the day when he heard the call over the radio.

Surrey RCMP Const. Ngawang Gonpo
“As soon as I heard the address over the radio, I knew where to go.”

When he got to the house, Gonpo said he was directed by one of the homeowners. He saw the vehicle as soon as he stepped into the backyard.

“It was almost fully submerged into the water,” said Gonpo, adding the vehicle was tilted toward the deep end of the pool.

He said he asked one of the homeowners and a neighbour to look after his duty belt, adding he “trusted him immediately,” and he jumped into the pool.

“There was no time to think twice.”

But Gonpo said he’s “not the best swimmer,” describing it as about a four- or five-out-of-10. “All I know is how to float on the water. I float enough.”

The front passenger window was open, he noted, so he reached in and managed to unlock the door.

“But because of the water pressure — there was tremendous pressure there — I could not open the door wide open. It took me at least five, six, seven times. I don’t even remember,” he explained. “All I remember is I was yelling out loud, saying, ‘Come on, I can do this.’”

Initially, the visibility was so poor that Gonpo couldn’t see the driver, an elderly man. He went back up to the surface and could see the man, but there was water up to his jaw.

Going back under, Gonpo said, “I just felt his hand grab me and as soon as I felt that, I tried to grab him. I told him, ‘Sir, I’m going to drag you out. Please sir, it might hurt a little bit, but hold on to me, don’t let go.’”

He then went to help the wife of the driver, who was partially out of the vehicle. Gonpo added he doesn’t remember much of what she said, except that the water was cold.

The couple was taken to hospital, police said, but “thankfully (had) no obvious injuries.”

After he got the couple out of the pool, Gonpo said a supervisor told him to leave and warm up. When he got to his vehicle, he said he was running checks when his lips started “to turn blue, purplish. Then I started shivering.”

A colleague told him to leave, and he went back to the detachment to warm up and change, ultimately staying on shift.

“I was not injured. I was OK,” he noted. I was back on the road.”

While he’s not used to the attention, Gonpo said he “just did what I’m supposed to do.”

“There was no thinking twice, I guess. My partners would have done the same thing, no doubt.”

Sgt. Brad Essex said police are “incredibly thankful” for the citizens who immediately called for emergency services and provided “invaluable assistance” to police and first responders.

“The heroic actions of Cst. Gonpo speaks volumes to one of the many ways police officers put their lives on the line every day without hesitation to ensure public safety,” Essex said in the release.

Gonpo said he’s tried to get in touch with the couple twice now, but hasn’t yet had any luck. But he plans to continue to trying.

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