Mike Kuntz said he just did what anyone would do. On Mar. 21, while making his regular commute to Kuntz Electroplating in Kitchener, Kuntz was one of two passing motorists who saw an overturned SUV in a water-filled field on Bloomingdale Road.
The single-vehicle collision is being investigated by police. Witnesses to the crash have yet to come forward, but police believe the car left the road shortly before 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning and flipped onto its roof in the adjacent field.
Police are calling Kuntz and another motorist, Patricia Cushing, Good Samaritans for their quick actions after coming across the upturned vehicle.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘boy, that’s strange,’ because there was no one else around,” said Kuntz, who believed the car may have been left in the field from a previous accident. “As I got closer I noticed a wheel was still spinning and there was smoke coming out of the engine and I instinctively pulled my car over.”
Kuntz said he noticed Cushing pulling over at the same time and both ran into the field to lend assistance to the driver, who was slumped out of the driver’s side window. The front of the vehicle was partially submerged in the mud and water that was pooling in the field.
“He wasn’t really moving and we noticed there was a lot of water,” said Kuntz. Cushing immediately went to the driver to cradle his head and neck above the water so he didn’t drown, while Kuntz phoned emergency services with his cell phone. Kuntz and Cushing took turns putting their hands into the icy cold water to hold the man’s head while waiting for emergency crews to respond.
“We needed to get his nose and mouth above the water line because it seemed like he was barely conscious,” Kuntz said. “We took turns talking to him and it seemed within just a few minutes he lost consciousness. “
Kuntz said emergency crews responded to the scene within 10 minutes of his call and originally determined treatment should be delayed until firefighters could lift the car up to remove the man. That changed in a heartbeat while Kuntz was still holding onto him.
“It appeared to me that he had stopped breathing,” Kuntz said. “He had a good, strong pulse but then it stopped. I think hypothermia was starting to set in.”
As the situation became dire, Kuntz helped emergency crews to extract the 19-year-old Kitchener man, who was then air-lifted by helicopter to Grand River Hospital.
“Each individual has to make a decision about how they can best help. If a person is at the scene and there’s a life-threatening situation we hope they would do everything within their abilities to try and help,” said Waterloo Regional Police spokesman Olaf Heinzel.
Heinzel reminded motorists it is illegal for someone to fail to stop or leave the scene of an accident if they are the first person on scene, as they can often provide valuable information to officers. However, police cannot insist passing drivers help if they feel they cannot.
“If they aren’t sure what they are doing, they could potentially cause some additional injuries to the occupant. They did what they saw was an important first response.”
If passersby are unsure what to do, Heinzel recommends staying on the line with emergency response and asking for assistance over the phone.
Kuntz reported he has up-to-date first aid training and was assisted Cushing and emergency crews the best he could. Police are considering recommending the pair for a citizen’s citation. The recommendation will be reviewed after the police report is filed.
“We commend the motorists who provided assistance,” said Heinzel.
Kuntz said he doesn’t think he did anything special and is a little embarrassed by all the attention his actions have received. He said he reacted the way anyone passing by would have.
“When something like this happens, you just react and you go on instinct and you just know that nothing else matters but to make sure he’s okay.”