Shane Doucette chose the only option he could imagine the day a fellow worker disappeared into a tank of production fluid captured from a gas well.
The Red Deer man, co-worker Jason Riggs and a consultant had been running a swabbing operation at a gas well near Clive on Aug. 18, 2008.
The consultant was sitting in his pickup truck and Doucette, then 34, was inside the shack working on his report when he noticed the lid was up on one of the tanks and Riggs was nowhere to be seen.
The tanks were set up to store fluids collected from the well.
There was no reason for anyone to go inside.
His heart in his throat, Doucette ran out of the shack, across the yard and up the ladder to peer into the oily soup below.
There was Riggs, face down, floating in the noxious liquid that partly filled the tank.
Doucette shut off the flow from the well to the tank, screamed for help, held his breath and jumped in.
He stayed in the tank long enough to turn Riggs onto his back and pull him toward the inside ladder. He climbed to the hatch, a took a few breaths of fresh air and climbed back down to haul his stricken colleague outside.
There was no breathing apparatus available at the site.
“I knew it wasn’t the wisest thing, but what I had to work with, I had no choice. It was either to try and help or let him die.”
The consultant helped Doucette get Riggs out of the tank and onto the ground, where Riggs performed CPR while they waited for an ambulance.
Riggs was revived and then airlifted to Edmonton for treatment.
Doucette said from his Red Deer home on Thursday that, to the best of his knowledge, Riggs suffered no long-term effects.
Just under two years since his daring rescue effort, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is set to present Doucette with a medal of bravery. He will join 16 other Canadians for formal presentations at Rideau Hall, the governor general’s official residence in Ottawa, at a date that has yet to be announced.
It’s a bittersweet reward for Doucette, who hasn’t worked since the day he pulled Riggs out of the tank.
Both men were let go from their jobs shortly afterwards when the company announced it needed to make cutbacks.
Doucette said that after what happened that day, he will never go back to an oilpatch job.
Riggs, who moved back to Newfoundland after losing his job, never said how he ended up in the tank, says Doucette.
Occuppational Health and Safety investigated the incident. No charges were laid.
“I still have a lot of bad memories about the incident,” said Doucette.