Okanagan man honoured for rescue

Canwest News Service June 25, 2010

While driving down a highway by the Similkameen River on a May 23 afternoon in 2007, Donald George Gough, then 60 years old, didn't know he would end the day a hero.

When he saw an elderly man trapped on top of a car in the middle of the river, Gough rushed to get a fire hose, fastened it to his waist, entered the river and pulled the man to safety.

Amazingly, Gough said that very same day, May 23, about 20 years ago, a woman and her young child drove into the river and were trapped in their car. Gough said he was able to save the woman, but not her son.

In a news release yesterday, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Gough, and another Canadian, Donald Morrison of Dutch Valley, N.B., are among 23 recipients in the U.S. and Canada of the prestigious Carnegie Medals for heroism.

The medal is awarded to those deemed to have risked their lives to "an extraordinary degree" while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

"Well, my first thought was I've got to get him out of the river," said Gough, who at the time of the 2007 incident was surrounded at the river's edge by several younger, healthier men, all looking out to the trapped 83-year-old.

The rescue took place off Highway 3 in Manning Park, on the route between Hope and Princeton.

"Nobody else was stepping forward and time was of the essence," said the 63-year-old from Summerland, who works as an environmental monitor.

Gough said he received a letter from the commission last week announcing he was to receive a $5,000 reward as well as a medal.

The commission said Morrison rescued Amy Kerckhoff from a burning helicopter in 2008 in Norman Wells, N.W.T.

Kerckhoff, 27, was the pilot of a chopper transporting Morrison, 43, a diamond driller and a co-worker to a remote work site.

As the helicopter was attempting to land, a mechanical failure sent it out of control. It dropped to the ground, rupturing its fuel tank, the commission said. Flames quickly engulfed the craft.

"Morrison unfastened his safety belt, kicked out a section of the windshield, and stepped from the helicopter. Although severely bruised in the crash, he then turned and reached back into the cabin.

He grasped Kerckhoff by her jacket, pulled her from the helicopter, and dragged her away," the commission said.

Since the Pittsburgh-based group's inception in 1904, 9,372 people have received awards.

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