Vacationing CFB Esquimalt firefighter saves snorkeler’s life
February 24, 2020 - Defence Stories
Robert Minnick, left, receives a Commander Royal Canadian Navy Commendation presented by Rear-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific.
Author: Peter Mallett
A firefighter from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt, British Columbia (BC), has received official recognition for saving the life of a snorkeler while on a recent vacation in Hawaii, crediting his training for a quick reaction.
The 48-year-old father of two chalked his successful actions all up to the training he has learned on the job after over 16 years as a firefighter at the base and 12 previous years of volunteer service in Langford, BC.
“You are always nervous in an incident like this, but the training you learn as a first responder is definitely crucial,” said Rob Minnick. “The training takes over and you start performing all the steps without really realizing it, and in this case it saved a young man’s life.”
Minnick was enjoying a quiet afternoon on scenic Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii, on the afternoon of November 28, 2019, with his wife and two friends from Victoria.
He was walking along the beach with his wife when they both noticed a crowd gathering around an unconscious snorkeler. Minnick and his wife, Tara, rushed to the scene to help.
Two other snorkelers had found the young man face-down in the water several metres offshore before pulling him to the beach.
After checking his vital signs, Minnick began administering life-saving cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
“Matthew (the snorkeler) had no pulse, he wasn’t breathing and his heart was stopped, which essentially means he was going to die shortly,” said Minnick.
“I thought there was no way he would survive, or at the very least suffer from serious brain damage, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.”
When the incident occurred, Minnick was enjoying the final day of a 10-day Hawaiian vacation. He had travelled the islands with his spouse, who works for the Victoria Police Department (PD), and his friend, retired Victoria PD constable Ole Jorgensen and his wife.
He says it was crucial that Tara was at his side to offer assistance and advice as he performed CPR. After checking Matthew’s vital signs, Minnick determined he was not breathing. He says the victim was turning blue which is a sign of cyanosis, increasingly deoxygenated blood levels.
After administering CPR and clearing the victim’s airway, Minnick said “a ton of water” was then expectorated from Matthew’s lungs. “It was pouring out through his mouth and lungs as if it was coming through a large funnel.”
After approximately five minutes, he says Matthew started breathing, albeit very faintly. That’s about the time that paramedics and police arrived on the scene and rushed him to a nearby hospital.
Matthew had been vacationing in Hawaii and Minnick says he isn’t sure how the drowning occurred. Minnick eventually learned from Matthew’s family that he was put into a drug-induced coma.
Three days after Christmas Minnick received a call from Matthew’s family who had told him that when the hospital first contacted them, their son’s prognosis was grim.
Ahead of receiving his award Minnick got word that Matthew would make a full recovery and was pleased to receive a heartfelt thank-you from Matthew’s father, Mitch.
“As a father I was getting emotional and tearing up during the call because I realized how I would have felt if one of my two children, who are roughly the same age, were in the same situation,” said Minnick. “The biggest reward was hearing that Matthew had lived through his ordeal and would make a 100 per cent recovery.”
Minnick was quick to downplay suggestions by witnesses at the scene, including a retired firefighter and his peers, who have all told him he is a hero for saving Matthew’s life. The praise has also come from co-workers and his bosses at the fire hall, including CFB Esquimalt Fire and Rescue Chief Geordie Douglas.
On January 24, 2020, Minnick was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Rear-Admiral Rob Auchterlonie, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific, for his actions.
“Myself and fellow the members of the Port Operations and Emergency Services Branch are extremely proud of him,” said Douglas “It is a morale booster for our unit and the rest of the base when one of our guys is recognized for doing something so outstanding while off-duty and away from work, and I know many others feel this way too.”
Courtesy of Lookout.
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