Firefighters Krista Harris (far left) and wife Cathy Van-Martin (back row, second from right) of Abbotsford rescued a mom and two kids who were unconscious in their vehicle on Boxing Day due to suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning. The pair are shown here with a contingent of firefighters to lobby at the legislature in Victoria.

Two off-duty firefighters were first to rescue mom and kids from car filled with fumes in Abbotsford

Pair pulled trio from vehicle on Boxing Day in case of suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning

The quick actions of two firefighters could be the reason that a mom and her two kids survived a case of suspected carbon-monoxide poisoning on Boxing Day in Abbotsford.

Cathy Van-Martin, a captain with the Burnaby Fire Department, and her wife Krista Harris, with Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS), were off duty on the evening of Dec. 26 when they were driving toward their home in Abbotsford.

They were heading west in the 33700 block of Clayburn Road not far from their residence when they spotted a car resting against a railing at about 8:20 p.m.

Van-Martin said the Toyota Corolla was running and there was a “lot of exhaust” spewing from the vehicle.

The couple immediately sensed that something wasn’t right, and they pulled in a few feet behind the Toyota.

They weren’t sure if anyone was in the vehicle – there were no streetlights in the area and the exhaust was partly obscuring their view.

“We discussed, as we were walking up, that we better be careful because we thought it was carbon monoxide, but it could have been something else,” Van-Martin said.

They carried a flashlight and held their breaths to keep from inhaling the toxic fumes as they approached the vehicle and, finding the doors locked, smashed in the windows with a hammer.

They discovered two small children in the back seat and a woman in the driver’s seat, all unresponsive.

That’s when the pair’s years of training and experience – 26 years for Van-Martin and 16 years for Harris – quickly kicked in full force.

Harris pulled out one of the children – later found to be five years old – while Van-Martin grabbed the second one, age 3, and laid them down on the roadway, with their car’s headlights illuminating the scene.

Van-Martin immediately began performing “rescue breathing” using a “pocket mask” on the younger child, while Harris pulled the woman from the vehicle. She then returned to the older child to begin life-saving measures.

RELATED: One woman, two children rushed to hospital after Abbotsford car crash

RELATED: Mom and kid in carbon-monoxide poisoning incident released from hospital

They also called 911, as did a passerby who had pulled over. The pair asked the man to direct traffic as they continued their emergency efforts.

An AFRS engine arrived on the scene quickly, and treatment began on the woman.

A second fire engine arrived, as did an ambulance, and Van-Martin estimates the first victim was on the way to hospital within 10 minutes.

The trio were initially pronounced in critical condition but that was upgraded to serious condition within a few days. The mom and the five-year-old were released from hospital on Thursday of this week.

The three-year-old remains in hospital in stable condition and is expected to be released early next week. Police say all three have a “positive” prognosis.

Van-Martin said she and Harris were “really happy” to hear the good news.

“They’ve been in our thoughts a lot,” she said.

Van-Martin credits everyone at the scene for the joyful outcome, as well as for the medical personnel caring for the trio in the hospital: “They must have worked a miracle.”

She is quick to dismiss any notions that she and Harris are heroes.

“For me, it was a combination of the right place and the right time,” Van-Martin said. “We did what we would have done as firefighters if we were on the job.”

Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird said earlier this week that an inspection of the Toyota Corolla will have to be conducted to find the source of the leak.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Preparing to welcome students back to school

It’ll be a short and very different return

Put money into addressing causes of flooding

The real issue is Somenos Creek being totally silted up

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Small businesses in Saltair change with the times

Pandemic creates creative thinking to remain in operation

Chemainus family pledges $50,000 to Chemainus Theatre Crisis Relief Fund

The Hilton family pledged $50,000 toward a matched fund. If fully matched, it will raise $100,000

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

UPDATE: Woman airlifted with serious injuries, baby OK after crash in Nanaimo

Collision happened on Jingle Pot Road in East Wellington on Saturday afternoon

Dump truck in Nanaimo snags power lines, snaps hydro pole, crashes

No injuries in incident Monday morning on Old Victoria Road

Ferry sailings scheduled once again at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay terminal

BC Ferries announces that resumption of service June 3 includes four daily round trips

Island Health signs working agreement to turn former Comox hospital into a ‘dementia village’

Island Health has signed a project development agreement with Providence Living to… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Most Read