By Nelia Raposo
One week before starting her first week at Ryerson’s nursing school, Christie Lees was already administering emergency care.
The 20-year old left work at a downtown bookstore Sept. 4 and stepped into the warm afternoon sunshine.
Moments later, at 2:43 p.m., a stolen minivan followed by a police cruiser ran a red light at the intersection of John and Richmond streets and slammed into a Ford Escort. The car skidded onto the sidewalk and plowed into pedestrians.
“I didn’t actually see it happen,” Lees said. “I saw everyone running so I instinctively ran toward the crowd and pushed my way through to where I noticed there was someone on the ground. It’s a blur; I remember a lot of noise. People shouting, telling others to get help.”
She found Eric, 6, wedged between the demolished car and a wall.
A group of men lifted the car so she could help him. He was unconscious and neither his breathing nor his pulse was strong. He appeared to have many broken bones.
Eric regained consciousness about three minutes later. A doctor nearby gave Lee a neck brace for the boy. He was still underneath the car and Lees didn’t move him, fearing a spinal injury.
“He was trying to pull himself out [from under the car]. He would grab onto someone’s leg and try lifitng himself.”
After Lees put the neck brace on Eric, she tried to calm him. He asked how many bloody spots he had. She told him he had about five.
“I was talking to him at his level, so I didn’t seem like some big scary adult,” Lees said.
When the paramedics arrived, they cleared the area of spectators, but Lees stayed to help. She was the only non-staff person behind the yellow tape line.
“I stayed with him, rubbing his arm, talking to him and relaxing him,” Lees said.
Eric was put on the stretcher, carried to the ambulance, and rushed to the Hospital of Sick Children. Then Lees crossed the yellow tape into a a crowd of media.
After the interviews, Lees walked back into her empty home. Needing to tell someone about her experience, she called her parents who live in Ancaster, near Hamilton.
“She said she had been in the middle of a horrible accident,” said her father Bob Lees, 52. “She sounded really calm and collected. We were really proud of her.”
Bon said his daughter told him to watch the six o’ clock news and, sure enough, she was on almost every channel.
The accident also killed the Escort’s driver Walter Borden, 79, and injured his wife Evelyn and a rickshaw driver. The special investigations unit, which looks into all incidents invoving the police and civilian injuries, is investigating the crash.
“I was really apprehensive about my daughter eing on the same corner,” Lees’ mother, Vera, said. “I though, my gosh, it could have been my daughter.”
But Christie Lees was proud to be there. “I feel like I’m meant to help people,” she said.
Eric remains in hospital, where he’s recovering from his internal injuries. His family is avoiding publicity and his last name has not been released. He’s listed in fair condition.