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Man and woman helped rescue family from river

Tamara Hynd/Fernie Free Press

A father and his three children under the age of 10 are recovering from their injuries after a traffic accident thanks to the quick assistance of a Fernie man on Sunday, December 1.

A family of five was travelling eastbound returning home to Coaldale, Alberta when their vehicle left Highway 3, plunging into an arm of the Elk River. The vehicle, a white Chevrolet minivan, came to rest upside down in the water.  A passing motorist and his girlfriend went down into the river and rescued all five occupants from the mini-van.

At approximately 2:30 p.m., Elk Valley RCMP from Fernie and East Kootenay Traffic Services (EKTS) responded to the collision on Highway 3 about eight kilometres west of Fernie known as Vanghal's straight stretch.

"Witnesses at the scene and RCMP members engaged in CPR on the female passenger but tragically, she was pronounced dead at the Fernie Hospital," said Elk Valley RCMP. "RCMP members and a travelling physician managed to revive the four-year-old child by conducting CPR.  The male driver and one of his children were treated at Sparwood hospital with minor injuries including hypothermia. The other two children were transported to Alberta Children's Hospital by air ambulance with severe injuries."

The Fernie man who helped rescue the family was treated for hypothermia and released. RCMP is in contact with the young man who is asking for his privacy.

Sgt. Don Erichsen commented on the Fernie man's heroic actions.

"It's an extremely traumatic situation and he risked his own life to help. One person did die and when you stand that close to death that's a large cross for anyone to bear. He is asking for privacy at this time."

Road conditions at the time of the collision were slushy on the centre of the roadway due to an overnight               snowfall.

In the initial investigation, it appears that the minivan may have been attempting a pass and lost control on the slushy centre area of the straight stretch of roadway.

Investigation into the collision is continuing.

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