Good Samaritan awards recognize rescuers who braved N.S. floodwaters

The recipients and presenters of the Good Samaritan awards. Front row from left: Chris Mckee (Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association), Danny Patterson, Barb Taylor, Alex Petrie, Mike Smith, Melissa Burbidge, Monica Thomsen (N.S. Trucking Safety Association), Colleen O'Toole (N.S. Trucking Safety Association), Jim Coolen. Back row from left to right: Bill Thompson, Trevor Bent (Eassons Transport), Vlad Visan (Eassons Transport), Barrett Ogilvie. (Barb Taylor  - image credit)

Mike Smith was dropping off his friend Alex Petrie in the small Nova Scotia community of Brooklyn last July when the pair noticed rising floodwaters in a nearby hayfield and heard cries for help thorough the pelting rain.

With only flashes of lightning illuminating the area, Smith and Petrie dove into the strong current and swam toward the voices in hopes of guiding whoever was out there to safety.

Together, they helped rescue four people.

"I hope someone would do kind of the same thing if someone I knew was in that same situation, but a lot of people wouldn't," said Smith, 30.

Smith, Petrie, and members of the Walton Shore fire department recently received Good Samaritan awards for their valiant efforts during last July's flash flooding that claimed the lives of four people.

Unprecedented emergency

The province was lashed with 250 millimetres of rain and the community of Brooklyn was particularly hard hit by unprecedented flooding.

The flooding washed away roads and destroyed bridges and buildings. Locals were trying to evacuate the area when their cars were swept into the hayfield and submerged.

In the dark water, Smith and Petrie came across a submerged tractor-trailer that had been swept into the hayfield. They helped the trapped driver onto the hood of the truck and eventually out of the hayfield before they found three other people who were struggling in the water.

The group clung to trees and bushes to avoid being swept away, while Smith swam to land seeking help. Finding only a canoe, he led the boat through the darkness. One of the individuals held on to the canoe to keep afloat until further rescue arrived.

Chief Danny Patterson of the Walton Shore volunteer fire brigade said no one anticipated the tragedy that unfolded that night.

"We weren't expecting that type of a call to that area at the time, mainly because well, Brooklyn fire department, you don't really see much," said Patterson, who was also presented with a Good Samaritan award from the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association.

He said a team from the fire department used a rugged rescue boat to search the flooded areas for anyone who was stranded.

Two hours after Smith and Petrie first heard cries for help, they and the others were spotted by the fire department and were soon on their way to safety in the rescue boat.

First time for awards

The fire department also rescued three other individuals and a dog that night — acts that were recognized at last week's awards ceremony at the Walton fire hall.

It's the first time the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association has presented Good Samaritan awards.

The torrential rains last July impacted numerous of communities across Nova Scotia, including Bedford pictured here.
The torrential rains last July impacted numerous of communities across Nova Scotia, including Bedford pictured here.

The torrential rains last July impacted numerous of communities across Nova Scotia, including Bedford pictured here. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Smith said he avoids boasting about the rescue and that his actions were merely prompted by neighbourly consideration, noting that he knew the people he helped rescue that night.

"I didn't like taking credit for anything about it," Smith said. "It's not like these people were complete strangers."

Monica Thomsen, executive director of the trucking safety association, said the award recipients showcased altruistic efforts that aren't widely seen.

"Most people don't actually see the good in what people can do in a desperate situation, and in our eyes, on July 22, it was pretty desperate measures for a lot of people trying to escape and get to safety from the raging floodwaters."

Flooding claimed 4 lives

Four people were killed in two separate incidents while fleeing their homes, including two six-year-old childrena 14-year-old girl, and a 52-year-old man.

As the first anniversary of the flooding looms, the emotional impacts left on small communities like Brooklyn are still fresh.

For individuals like Patterson who witnessed the flooding first-hand, it's a day that will never be forgotten.

"Normally, as a rule, we just go and do what we do and go back home and go to bed … but this was a very large situation and so it sort of stays with you, and I think it always will," he said.