Officers who saved train jumper hailed as heroes

Constables Jeffrey Czarnecki and John Hubbard don’t consider themselves guardian angels.

Constables Jeffrey Czarnecki and John Hubbard don’t consider themselves guardian angels.

They will insist they were just doing their jobs and utilizing good police procedures the night they helped rescue a hypothermic man clinging to a freight train near Blackfalds.

By the time the officers found him, Jonathan Hambler, 29, of Edmonton was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Hambler said he wants all his rescuers, whom he called “my guardian angels,” to know how grateful he is for saving his life last Friday.

Hubbard, who has been a Town of Lacombe Police Services officer for more than two years, and Czarnecki, who has been an RCMP officer for less than two years, teamed up for the rescue.

Hubbard recalled on Thursday that it was extremely cold and the snow was deep when they trudged through it, hunting for Hambler. Hambler had hopped the train in Wetaskiwin.

“It was something like -38 and he was on I think car number 47 of the 56-car train,” said Hubbard, who was first a policemen with Calgary City Police before moving to Lacombe.

Hambler was clinging with his bare hands to the freezing metal of the freight train that was barrelling into the unknown darkness. He realized he couldn’t jump because the train was moving too fast.

He doesn’t remember a lot about the rescue except that the officers were extremely kind.

“They were real good to me. They just pretty much wanted to get me safe, get me warm,” he said.

Hubbard said the officers gave him their jackets and tuques until they could get him to an ambulance.

Hambler spent a few days in hospital suffering from frostbite before returning home.

Staff-Sgt. Gord Glasgow of Red Deer Rural RCMP said Czarnecki employed “excellent police procedures and initiative” in carrying out his duty.

“There’s sometimes a knock against the RCMP because we have many young officers but this fellow was working alone and used good, common sense in getting our telecommunications people and the Lacombe police involved,” Glasgow said.

“He utilized all the resources at his disposal and they all deserve credit,” Glasgow said.

“He did a bang-up job,” Glasgow added.

Hambler had escorted a drunk friend home from the bar. He said he wanted to get across Wetaskiwin a littler quicker so hopped the train.

Hambler has been given the option to voluntarily pay a fine or appear in Red Deer court on Feb. 5.

The maximum fine is $2,000 for trespassing on Canadian Pacific Railway property.

Hambler was ill-prepared for the ride. He wore thin pants, sneakers, a winter jacket, but no gloves. Perched between cars, he was at the mercy of the wind and the bitter cold.

Luckily, he had the one thing that could save him — his cellphone.

“As soon as it started getting colder, I just called 911,” he said. “I was kinda hoping it would work, because my phone was dying at the time.”

The operator contacted RCMP and Czarnecki quickly came up with an ingenious plan. They learned two trains were operating out of Wetaskiwin that night, and had to figure out how to quickly determine which one carried Hambler.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com, with files from The Canadian Press

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