‘Angels Always Watching Us’: A Story From Batchewana Fire & Rescue

Photo sent by Ian Van Der Swan

At the lower half of Montreal River Hill on the Trans Canada Highway just North of Twilight Road on Lake Superior a lone younger female tractor-trailer operator suddenly found her world upside down and in complete turmoil.

The operator managed to survive the one hundred foot long connection to the South bound guard rail and then the jolting laws of physics as her truck trailer went turned upside down and went into the deep ravine, leaving her home on the road completely upside down and only being prevented from falling by the steel mangled guard rail.

Seconds seemed like hours as she tried to get a grip on what just happened. The woman was in the centre of the tractor portion of the trailer, surrounded entirely by twisted cab components and only could barely reach out of her space with a hand.

Jonathan Brooks, a safety environment officer for Andritz Hydro happened to be upon the scene within minutes of the terrible event and immediately reached out to the only human part he could connect with, a human moving hand. He told her everything is going to be okay as he fought to control his internal frustration of being a first responder and not being able to access her.  Due to the inability of being able to assess her whole person, he had to just pray that everything was okay. After sizing up everything at the scene, he then immediately reached out to 911 and started the life saving response.

Batchawana Fire & Rescue personnel were all in area, carrying on with summer activities of being on the water, enjoying a nice meal and running a business. The tones of an alarm hit the air waves, and the small volunteer fire department sprang to action. As the clock ticked, many people from different emergency agencies all played a part in making sure that Mr. Brooks got the help he needed as fast as possible. OPP, Sault Ste. Marie Ambulance Service and Wawa Fire Rescue were converging on his location.

All of Batchawana trucks were en route up the twisty national highway along Lake Superior to hopefully make a difference in her life. Being 45 miles North of Sault Ste. Marie, they arrived first on scene with jaws of life auto extrication equipment. The fire chief and fire fighters quickly assessed the plan for gaining access to her and started removing components of the tractor. It seemed like an impossible task, to move so much metal. One item at a time was carefully cut away to start to free up her limbs.

Sault Ste. Marie Ambulance arrives and backs in close to the inverted truck and prepares to receive patient into their care. Minutes seem like hours as fire fighters finally cut away enough steel to access her for extrication. The golden hour of life after a traumatic event has long gone and first responders struggle to wait. Traffic traveling through this busy tourism corridor is backed up for miles in both directions.

The EMS team then slides a back board into the hole of the truck and inch by inch, pull the driver out.

Wawa Fire Rescue arrives to provide Heavy Extrication assistance, thankfully they were not needed.

Sault Ste. Marie paramedics and Batchawana fire fighters carry her on the back board to a waiting stretcher and bring her to the ambulance for transport to Sault Ste. Marie.

Mr. Brooks had delivered his promise to that lone truck driver that everything will be okay. Angels had made sure that the proper life saving personal and equipment were ready to respond.

This story goes out to Batchawana Fire & Rescue, Wawa Fire & Rescue, Sault Ste. Marie Ambulance Service and Ontario Provincial Police. Especially to Mr. Jonathan Brooks for his  unselfish and compassionate actions that made a difference in such a rural area of Algoma district of Ontario. 

Written by,

Ian  Van Der Swan 

Captain – Batchawana Fire & Rescue


  1. they have helped so many lives over the yrs,,just like all volunteer fire departments,,batchawana fire team have a fish fry 1st 2 weekends in august,,,get out and support them so they can keeo doing a great job

    • In the absence of media reporters we’ll see more of this ‘supplied story’ content. This kind of reportage may become part of Fire Chief’s job descriptions. It’s another step in ‘media’ becoming a ‘photo copier’ but the good news is, credit where credit was due was given and in the absence of the Chief’s writing we’d never know who did what. Congrats to all involved in providing first responder services and thanks Chief for the info.

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