By Matt Kwong
Ryerson students rushed to help a man on Saturday after his van smashed into a hydro pole, just metres from the Architecture building.
The 57-year-old man, who was pronounced dead at St. Michael’s Hospital, was driving north on Church Street towards Gerrard Street.
Police say he suffered a heart attack, causing his burgundy cargo van to veer off and slam into the wooden pole. Second-year architecture student Tim Hutchinson was working on a model in a northeast studio when he heard the collision at around 5 p.m. “I looked out, but from up here, all I saw was the hydro pole swinging,” he said, gazing at the window.
It didn’t take Hutchinson long to react, even as other students stood up from their drafting tables and gawked at the accident scene. “I thought, ‘Hey, we’ve got tools – we can help,’ ” he said.
As Hutchinson’s friend Andy Guiry dialed 911, the quick-thinking 20-year-old grabbed a hammer from a nearby work desk and headed for the stairs. “I wanted to get down there and pop out a window,” he said.
At the intersection, Hutchinson could smell gasoline, but “I couldn’t see any gas flowing anywhere, so I kept going,” he said. “I just smashed (the window) again and tried to get my arm to reach the lock.”
On the opposite end of the car, Hutchinson noticed a woman trying to help as well. “She was speaking to him, I guess to see if he was conscious,” he said. As he continued to knock at the passenger’s side, third-year architecture student Hailey Unterman tried talking to the victim through the glass. “We just wanted to see if he’d respond to anything,” she said. “We ended up smashing the window.” “Help is on the way,” Unterman continued to shout through the glass to the man inside, but there was no response.
Unterman said the man was drooling but was not moving. A couple of minutes later, emergency crews arrived and took over. “When I could see the flashing lights, that’s when I walked off,” Hutchinson said. Neither student thought to consider the gas leak and loose hydro pole that threatened their safety, but both were shaken when they returned to the building. “We didn’t think about our safety,” Unterman said. “I still haven’t really had time to think about it.”
Hutchinson apparently felt the same way. “Nobody knows what to do in a situation until they’re in it, I guess,” he said. About 10 minutes after the crash, he packed up and left for home.
When paramedics arrived at the scene, the victim had no vital signs. He may have died even before his van struck the pole. On Saturday, police cruisers cordoned off the entire block between Gould and Gerrard streets until firefighters safely removed the loose pole.
Although Hutchinson’s family still has no idea he almost risked his life to save someone else, the student said “it’s not a big deal.” “They have no idea what I did and they don’t know that guy died,” he said. “But it’s a big deal to the guy’s family, I’m sure.”
The victim’s name has not been released.
-With files from Jen Gerson.