An off duty Winnipeg Police Officer is being credited with saving the life of a man on the brink of death last Wednesday.
The story was published on the kenoradailyminerandnews.com website yesterday.
The article indicates three (3) vacationing Winnipegers worked together to save the life of a man who was no longer breathing and had no pulse after being rescued from the bottom of Dog Tooth Lake in the Rushing River Provincial Park near Kenora, Ontario.
The report identified the three (3) Winnipeg residents as Colin Cheys, Jaime Siska and Joel Vertone.
Vertone is a five (5) year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service and is presently assigned as a Detective in the Division #11 Crime Unit.*
“There was a man in the water frantically screaming that someone was under the water so I dove in immediately and searched,” Cheys said. “I swam to the bottom in probably 10 – 12 feet of water. I located a gentleman who was wide-eyed and looking up at me. Unfortunately, he had drowned. So I grabbed his arm and pulled him to the surface,” he continued.
When Cheys pulled the man out of the water he indicated, “He was dead. His eyes were wide open, he was purple, it was the most terrifying thing I’ve seen.”
The report indicates that Siska, a principal at Holy Ghost School, was joined by Vertone who helped pull the man to an area where they could work on him. Siska indicated, “I noticed he had blood in his mouth, so I wasn’t comfortable (performing CPR). As far as I knew, he was dead. He had no pulse and was not breathing.”
That didn’t stop Vertone from doing what he believed had to be done.
“I just thought it was more important to ensure that he had a good chance of being resuscitated,” Vertone told reporter Amber McGuckin. “I had hope for him,” he said.
After approximately three and a half (3 1/2) minutes of compressions the man vomited, spit up a quantity of water and started to breathe on his own. A short time later the victim was air lifted by Air Ambulance to the Lake of the Woods District hospital.
The report indicates the Hospital confirmed a drowning patient had been admitted on Wednesday, August 6th and was discharged two (2) days later.
(The Hospital couldn’t confirm the man was the same person revived by Vertone, Cheys & Siska)
The news of the man’s survival was comforting to Siska who indicated, “For the last four nights after that I had nightmares waking up and all I saw was that boy’s face,” she said. “That was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me,” she added.
“I’m just thankful that all the right people were there,” said Vertone.
*Division #11 is responsible for policing Downtown Winnipeg.
Police Officer’s by their very nature prefer to keep a low profile when it comes to their participation in life saving events that member’s of the media often classify as heroic.
When it comes to “on duty” events, most Police Officers downplay suggestions of heroism and indicate they were simply doing their jobs.
“Off duty” events are different.
“Off duty” Police Officers choose to act, a distinction worthy of note.
Vertone’s efforts were selfless, courageous and nothing short of heroic.
He is a credit to the Law Enforcement community.
I’m not surprised to hear that Siska had difficulty sleeping after participating in this near fatal event.
“For the last four nights after that I had nightmares waking up and all I saw was that boy’s face,” she said. “That was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me,” she added.
Nightmares, flashbacks and sleep disruption are common symptoms experienced by people who suffer emotional trauma or PTSD after witnessing or participating in traumatic incidents.
Police Officers and Emergency Response workers are exposed to this kind of trauma every single day of the week. Emotional trauma and PTSD has been directly attributed to a frightening increase in Police Officer and Emergency Response worker suicides over the last several years.
Siska’s description of the impact of this incident should provide a degree of understanding to those who question the effects of Police Officer or Emergency Response worker emotional trauma.
It’s worthy to note most traumatic incidents experienced by Law Enforcement Officers and Emergency Response workers frequently have more tragic outcomes. Tragic outcomes logically heighten the degree of emotional injury or trauma.
Joel Vertone comes from dedicated and proud Law Enforcement family.
His father is a serving Patrol Sergeant with the WPS with over thirty (30) years of Police Service.
His brother and future sister-in-law are also serving Police Officers.