To the two heroic police constables for the amazing rescue on Dec. 11 of a man freezing to death while clinging to the outside of a freight train rumbling south down the track in -38C temperatures.
Finding the man, who hopped the train in Wetaskiwin, was like looking for a needle in a haystack because nobody new what train he was on after making a desperate 911 call on his cellphone. Thanks to the exemplary action of Constables Jeffery Czarnecki of rural Red Deer rural RCMP and John Hubbard of the Town of Lacombe Police Department, they found that needle and Jonathan Hambler, 29, of Edmonton is alive to tell the story.
When Czarnecki and Hubbard plucked the near-frozen man off the stopped train, he was drifting in and out due to severe hypothermia — within an inch of his life.
The two officers don’t think they’re worthy of being dubbed by Hambler as “my guardian angels.” Modesty aside, those officers deserve some form of commendation.
Briefly, here’s what happened: Hambler hopped the slow-moving train around 3 a.m., intending to jump off a few blocks away. But the train sped up and while clinging with his bare hands to the freezing metal, Hambler made the frantic 911 call.
The two officers scrambled. Rail officials were contacted. Two trains were headed south. Both engineers were instructed to sound their whistles while Hambler kept his cellphone open. One of the whistles heard over the cellphone identified the train. Hambler was found near Blackfalds on car No. 47 of the 56-car train. He was barely alive.
The resources, contacts and initiatives that Czarnecki and Hubbard employed to save a life under extremely difficult circumstances was incredible detective work. It’s reassuring to know that we have young officers working in Central Alberta who are cool, bright and efficient under pressure.
To all the Central Alberta charities that are strapping on snowshoes this year to help the needy — especially those groups struggling with fewer donations and higher demands.
Like the needy, some charitable groups have fallen on tough times. Fundraising has been a struggle, in part due to the recent cold snap.
Also, tough economic times mean belt-tightening for some of those who would normally contribute but are struggling themselves.
It’s frustrating to see donations fall while demand goes up. But it’s a fact of life. Charitable groups are shovelling through some very high snow drifts this year, working up a sweat to meet that demand.
One such group is the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.
Donations are down 50 per cent while applications for aid are up by more than 30 per cent. “It’s not been a good year as far as fundraising goes,” bureau vice-president Gary James told the Advocate earlier this week.
“We had most of our big events the weekend of the blizzard and that kind of cut everything down for us,” said James.
“A lot of it is the economy, too. There are people out there who may have given in the past who are not capable of doing it with the economy the way that it is.”
The bureau anticipates giving out 1,000 Christmas hampers this year, compared with about 730 last year. Those wishing to donate can go to 10, 7429 49th Ave. in Red Deer or phone: 403-347-2210.
The Salvation Army Kettle Campaign, a traditional charity of Yule giving, is also in trouble.
What would Christmas be without the merry wishes that the Sally Ann Santas on the street corners bring — snow or shine — ringing bells and smiling?
This year, the demand for the Salvation’s Army community services increased 60 per cent, but the organization hasn’t yet reached the halfway points in its fundraising goal of $173,000.
“We’re behind from where we were at this time last year,” said Salvation Army Captain/Pastor Jason Sabourin. “We’re hoping that this week is a real barn burner.”
Those wishing to drop off donations, go to Salvation Army, 4874 54th St.
Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.