A Silverton man says it’s incredibly luck that everyone emerged alive from a crash on Highway 6 last month in which he rescued two guards from a burning armored car.
Tyler Pankhurst, who works for Silverton Building Supplies, says he has returned to work despite some injuries. “It’s something I’m never going to forget and relive right now on a daily basis,” he says. “But talking about it really helps.”
Pankhurst says he had just left New Denver on Nov. 9 and was headed back to Silverton in their transport truck. As he slowed down at a corner with a 40 km/h warning sign, he saw a vehicle sliding into his lane.
“I thought why are the police going so fast? Because it was a white Surburban. I pulled over to the right as far as I could go. At that moment he hit me head on so hard that it shook me into next week.”
It wasn’t a police vehicle, but an armoured car from B&L Security of Vernon.
Pankhurst saw flames coming from the vehicle. He jumped from the cab of his truck and ran to the Suburban’s passenger side and tried to open the door, but they were locked. He grabbed the fire extinguisher from his truck and tried to put the fire out, “but as my extinguisher ran out, it got bigger and bigger. That’s when I started hearing the guys inside yelling ‘Get us out, get us out!'”
Pankhurst backed up his truck to expose the Suburban’s driver side, but could not open that door either. He grabbed a tie-down bar from his truck toolbox and began hitting the passenger side rear window.
“I thought ‘They’re not going to burn on my watch,” Pankhurst says.
Due to the bulletproof glass, “it took six or seven strikes before it broke. Then there was a plexiglass sheet after that. I started smashing that as well. It also took six or seven hits before it finally broke.”
A plume of black smoke came out of the vehicle. Pankhurst grabbed the passenger by the head and dragged him out the window. “He yelled ‘my leg hurts, my leg.’ I said ‘I don’t care about your leg right now, let’s get you away from the fire.'”
At that point, the driver of a minivan that was travelling behind Pankhurst and someone else grabbed the driver and pulled him out the same window.
The sheltered behind Pankhurst’s truck as the Suburban burned. However, one of the guards lost his handgun as he was pulled out.
“He said well, ‘There’s going to be some bullets going off in a minute.’ Sure enough, some ammunition started going off inside the cab of their vehicle. We backed up a little further.”
At that point, the fire department and ambulance arrived.
Pankhurst says he was operating on “pure adrenalin.”
“My girlfriend said ‘It’s a good thing you don’t think sometimes.’ It wasn’t a planned thing. Definitely spur of the moment, in the moment, and just thinking there’s lives at stake here, I have to help somebody. I’m not one to sit around on the sidelines and watch things happen. I get involved in anything I do.”
Pankhurst says things might have been different if he didn’t have the tie-down bar. Or if he had not pulled out in front of the minivan in New Denver, for his truck took the brunt of the impact.
“We’re all very fortunate that the circumstances happened the way they did,” he said.
Pankhurst has since heard from B&L Security, thanking him for his efforts. The two guards were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Pankhurt has since returned to work, despite his own injuries.
Seeing a picture of the scene for the first time “brought me a wave of anxiety and emotion like you wouldn’t believe. [It was] definitely surreal.”
Police say speed is being investigated as a likely factor in the crash.
You can hear the entire interview below.