'I thought I was going to die:' Nanaimo woman recovering after being crushed by car

By Dominic Abassi
June 15, 2018 - 12:24pm Updated: June 16, 2018 - 6:53am

Claire Surgenor, 72, is healing at home after a terrifying ordeal.Submitted

NANAIMO — Claire Surgenor remembers staring at the back wheels of the car crushing her chest, struggling for breath and praying. Then she went out.

The next thing the Nanaimo woman recalled was coming to on the rain-soaked sidewalk and asking a stranger where her husband was.

"I had no pulse she told me," Surgenor told NanaimoNewsNOW. "I had so much pain in my chest and back. I'm French, so I don't hold my pain in. I yelled out every time somebody touched me or tried to move me, it was excruciating."

Surgenor is sharing her story less than a week after a group of people lifted a full-sized sedan off her, a move RCMP said saved her life.

The 72-year-old was riding her bike near the top of Rutherford hill on June 9. As she passed in front of the plaza near Nelson Rd. she felt her bike skid on the wet sidewalk. She eased the bike and herself to the ground to avoid injury.

"So I'm sitting on the ground ready to get up and this car was ramming at me," she said, her voice shaking with emotion as she recalled the terrifying ordeal. "Knocked me over, pulled me under, twisted me and stopped on top of my chest.

"I couldn't breathe and I thought I was going to die. I was really struggling for every breath and I could see the back wheels. I was praying 'Oh God, don't finish me off' and then I went out."

What Surgenor didn't know at the time is the piece of the story filled in by Nanaimo RCMP. They said two of their members happened to be driving by at the time and were flagged down by several panic-stricken people.

The two Mounties and seven other people hoisted the car onto its side, allowing another bystander to pull Surgenor out from under the vehicle.

The bystander turned out to be a registered nurse, a further piece of serendipity in the incredible incident.

"I struggled a bit and regained my breath and was totally conscious. I remember asking for my husband."

Surgenor said the ambulance ride was bumpy and painful. At the hospital, she was whisked into a trauma room where more than 10 nurses and doctors pored over her injuries.

She said she suffered a fractured rib and had a hole punctured in her lung. There was a contusion on her liver, to go along with an entirely black and blue body.

"I made it without a broken bone...I've always been very active. Farm girl, hard work, gardening. I think that paid off."

Surgenor was released the following day and is now healing "slowly but surely" in her home.

She recently spoke with the nurse who initially couldn't find a pulse on the sidewalk and the two plan to meet in the near future.

The gravity of the near-death experience is not lost on Surgenor's husband Ron.

"To have the RCMP happen to be going by at that moment, because there was a nurse and the other people that were able to lift the car; It was absolutely in our mind a miracle this all came together at that moment," he said.

"People will help you when you need them. There's a lot of real, good, caring people out there."

Meanwhile, RCMP said the 32-year-old driver of the car that hit Surgenor likely won't face charges. They said based on witness statements it appears the man simply didn't see her.

— with files from Spencer Sterritt

 

[email protected]

On Twitter: @domabassi

Families invite Nanaimo's homeless to picnic for compassionate conversations