Alberta woman recalls harrowing rescue after car crashes into creek

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Patricia Nunn credits her family’s survival that cold November day to two things — a trio of fortuitously placed RCMP officers and her husband’s love of cars from the 1980s.

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On a cold night last month, Nunn, her daughter and granddaughter were driving home to their rural property near Breton, 118 km southwest of Edmonton.

Suddenly, their car was nose-first in a creek at the bottom of an embankment and sliding steadily into the water.

Nunn, 47, was able to escape. But her daughter and four-year-old grandchild were stuck in the sinking car.

“I ran up the bank and flagged down vehicles, but they just kept going around me,” Nunn said in an interview. Then, after running up the road for almost one kilometre, she spotted three idling police cars.

“I’m not sure what they were sitting there for, but I flagged them down and it was like Christmas. The lights came on, and it was just great.”

Nunn and her family were travelling on Highway 616 just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 26. Nunn had just finished wrapping presents with Santas Anonymous and had picked up her daughter from the hospital.

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Highway 616 is notorious for poor road conditions, Nunn said, so she drove slowly, pushing her husband’s 1985 Buick LeSabre to just 50 km/h.

When they were about five minutes from their Brazeau County home, Nunn’s daughter suddenly grabbed the steering wheel, believing she’d seen something in the road. The 25-year-old suffered a brain injury in another car crash three years prior and as a result experiences flashbacks.

“She grabbed the wheel out of my hand and swerved and we went over the bank,” Nunn said. “She didn’t remember doing it.”

‘Up to their knees in water’

Nunn believes the Buick — “my husband’s pride and joy” — saved them when they initially went off the road.

“If it wasn’t for that vehicle we would have all died. Those cars are just tanks. Any other vehicle would have rolled.”

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Once the car came to a stop, Nunn took stock of her surroundings and realized they had landed nose-first on a frozen body of water. She turned off the engine, worried that the heat would speed up the melting of the ice.

Realizing she wouldn’t be able to extricate her daughter and granddaughter on her own, Nunn ran up the hill, and kept going until she spotted the RCMP vehicles.

The 1985 Buick LaSabre which Patricia Nunn was driving on Nov. 26, 2021, when the car went off the road and into a frozen body of water. Nunn credits the big car’s design with saving her family, saying any other vehicle would have rolled. A tow company later removed the car using a winch.
The 1985 Buick LaSabre which Patricia Nunn was driving on Nov. 26, 2021, when the car went off the road and into a frozen body of water. Nunn credits the big car’s design with saving her family, saying any other vehicle would have rolled. A tow company later removed the car using a winch. Photo by supplied

According to RCMP, who released details about the rescue on Dec. 21, the officers work out of the Breton detachment and had been dispatched for an unrelated call near Buck Creek. The three were eventually able to pull the car’s two remaining occupants through the windows.

“They were already up to their knees in water before they got my daughter out,” Nunn said.

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The officers kept the family warm until emergency medical services arrived. Crews assessed them on scene and released them to the care of Nunn’s husband. A tow company was later able to remove the sunken car with a special winch.

Nunn said her children likely would have died had the officers not been there. She said she wanted to tell her story to thank the officers, and to counter some of the bad press the RCMP receives in rural Alberta. The UCP government is currently exploring replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force , in part due to concerns over rural response times, while the RCMP union is fighting against the pullout.

As for the Buick, Nunn said the crash damaged the car’s frame and it will never run again.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

The hill and frozen body of water where Patricia Nunn, her daughter and granddaughter crashed on the night of Nov. 26, 2021. Their car sank in the water after a few minutes.Supplied photo
The hill and frozen body of water where Patricia Nunn, her daughter and granddaughter crashed on the night of Nov. 26, 2021. Their car sank in the water after a few minutes.Supplied photo Photo by supplied

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