Woman pulls neighbour to safety after explosion: ‘Your mind says go, you go’

On Saturday afternoon, Suzanne Fortin heard “one hell of a boom” and rushed out of her home at the Duncan RV Park.

“At first I thought it was a tree that fell on one of the units and then I saw the smoke,” ­Fortin said Wednesday.

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Everyone was out, standing around David Munce’s mobile home in a state of shock — every­one except Fortin, who was inside, pulling Munce to safety.

“I knew if it happened at his place, it means he’s there. ... So I just rushed there and got him out,” said ­Fortin. “If someone is in distress, you don’t question. Your mind says go, you go. A minute later would have been too late.”

The 70-year-old, whose husband died two weeks ago, said saving Munce’s life was “the normal thing to do.”

“If I had just let him die, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep with myself.

“I just did what I had to do.”

Munce’s grateful sister Donna Liptak said Fortin is fearless.

“Suzanne is everybody’s hero. To think if she hadn’t gone in there, the whole place would have blown up, he would have been dead,” said Liptak.

She learned about the explosion and fire in her brother’s trailer when a friend called Saturday afternoon and told her what had happened. She raced to the Boys Road RV park.

“When I first got to the park, they wouldn’t let me in. Then Suzanne pulled up right beside my car,” Liptak said, beginning to cry. “She was the first person I hugged in a year. She’s just wonderful.”

Fortin told her Munce was standing in front of his propane stove, probably in shock.

“I’m burned,” he said.

“Come on. We go,” she told him.

After she got him out of the trailer, Fortin put him in a chair, covered his burns in cold ­facecloths, then brought him to an ambulance.

Munce, 75, is being treated in the burn unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Liptak said it took her three days and 19 phone calls to find him.

Paramedics at the scene told Liptak her brother had been taken to Cowichan Hospital. When she called, they said “No David Munce here” and gave her the phone number for Victoria General Hospital. Victoria ­General told her to try Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Liptak eventually found her brother there on Tuesday. Munce hadn’t been entered in the system because his identification had been burned in the fire, which destroyed his trailer.

He is now heavily sedated, in a mini-coma, with a breathing tube down his throat. His hands are in protective gloves and his face is singed and swollen. He was also discovered to have pneumonia. “He didn’t look like my brother,” said Liptak. “They will leave him sedated and slowly bring him out of sedation as he gets better.”

Meanwhile, the park manager and the parks maintenance man have found an empty trailer Munce can use when he gets out of hospital, said Liptak.

Duncan Fire Chief Mike McKinlay said he believes the explosion was caused by a ­propane stove, but that’s still under investigation.

McKinlay said he doesn’t often see people rushing in to rescue someone.

“Usually, they kind of wait. But yes, it has happened. People do different things in their lives because it’s in their nature to help,” he said.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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