Insurance broker Liane Wood, president of KPL Insurance-Rates in Frankford, Ontario, became involved in a much more difficult claim than she bargained for on February 6.
She and her husband Dan, a pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Frankford, have been hailed in national media as "heroes" for their harrowing rescue of a 13-year-old girl who was trapped in her family's 2013 Nissan Juke, which had fallen upside-down into a river behind the church parking lot.
The Woods and another couple were just wrapping up a family night at the church when they heard a tremendous crash, Liane Wood told Insurance Business. "We all kind of looked at each other," she said. "My youngest daughter came running to the door of the church, burst in and said, 'Megan's in the river.'"
Megan is the 13-year-old daughter of the couple leaving the church with the Woods, and a friend of the Woods' two teenaged daughters.
The families went outside and surveyed the scene. "Our church property is quite literally just up against the bank of the Trent River," Wood said. "There's a large retaining wall that runs behind the church, and across the back of the parking lot. Then the river is right there. It's about a 10-foot drop from the parking lot to the river.
"The other couple's daughter was in the vehicle. We still don't know how, but somehow the vehicle rolled backwards and went through the fence, over the wall and went into the river. It landed upside down in the water."
Dan Wood, a former volunteer firefighter, ran back to the church and pulled out a ladder being used to paint the sanctuary. He lowered the ladder into the water, and Liane Wood, who used to swim competitively, lowered herself into a strong current and swam out to the car.
Once at the car, she found the door was locked. She swam back to the embankment to pick up a tool from her husband and couple, swam back out, but couldn't get any leverage to open the door. At this point, Dan Wood, who had a bad shoulder, swam out to help her. The couple swam to the back of the car, which was pitch-black because the parking lot lights were blocked out.
"We were trying to feel where the window was on the back, to try and break it there," Liane Wood said. "As we were feeling the bumper with our hands, trying to move down…our hands just kept going inside. I said to my husband, 'Are we inside the vehicle?'"
Once inside the vehicle, they called for Megan. She responded and found the Woods' outstretched hands. The first responders arrived just as the Woods brought Megan to shore. Liane Woods couldn't feel her legs and feet because of hypothermia. Megan was treated in hospital for hypothermia for a few hours and released.
The first responders were amazed, Liane Wood said.
"In a 2013 Juke, the only space to move from the front of the back seat to high in the back seat is between the roof of the car and the top of the seat," she said. "That's only about 12 to 15 inches. That was completely under the water, and Megan's hair was completely dry when she came out of that vehicle. It was something the first responders were talking about: 'How did she get out of that with her hair dry?'"
Wood said the incident reminded her as a broker of how quickly things happen. It also reinforced a safety lesson the parents are constantly teaching their 16-year-old daughter.
"My older daughter is 16 and she is going into driver training," she said. "As an insurance broker, I am constantly telling her about the dangers of driving – how you have to be careful and always pay attention – and this has definitely opened her eyes. She understands a lot more about what her Mom and Dad are saying to her about being careful when you're driving and always paying attention."
Courtesy: Insurance Business.CA