Paul Labelle, an everyday hero

Paul Labelle, acting on training he received in high school, took measures which saved Norma Simpson’s life at the scene of an auto accident. For this, Simpson’s doctor, Dr. Jennifer Hamel presented Labelle with a Certifi cate of Appreciation on behalf of the Virden Medical Associates, in recognition of Labelle’s citizenship and compassion for a fellow driver.

The award itself was initiated by Dr. Hamel. She explained, “We actually looked everywhere for an award for Paul and we couldn’t find one. Norma and I both [agreed], there are so many that drive by on the road and don’t stop when somebody’s in trouble, we need to do this.” In consultation with medical colleagues, Hamel was encouraged to create this award.

The award was presented on Thursday evening, May 21, at T’s Dinning, where Simpson’s daughter Sandra Simpson, and friends Elaine Chyzyk, Marjory Musgrove, Fran Bayliss and Shirley Rudneski along with Dr. Hamel and Paul Labelle and his friend Carrie Wilson celebrated over dinner.

“These are all the girls who kept me going when I was having a rough time,” Simpson stated.

The Accident
She was travelling into Brandon later in the day. Simpson was passing Labelle and she tells, “It all happened so fast. I had pulled over and I kind of scraped his fender.”
Labelle was working for a construction company based in Oak Lake at the time. On October 28, in 2013 he was travelling home to Brandon after a day of work.

Simpson recalls, “I lost control of the car and I rolled it over in the ditch about three miles east of Oak Lake.”

Labelle explains, “I was just leaving work. That’s how I ‘bumped into’ Norma. I had a smaller car than her... when she passed, she wasn’t quite clear of my car.” He braked, but couldn’t avoid her. Simpson’s car rolled; Labelle pulled over and stopped.

With her car upside down, Labelle saw the elderly driver still in her seat, holding on to the steering wheel, hung by her seat belt.

“Her body was pinned between the driver’s seat and the window,” he recalls. “Being a carpenter I always carry a hammer. I smashed the rear passenger window.”

Labelle crawled into the car and shut off the key. “He found that the seat belt was choking me,” reports Simpson.

He was a rescuer at heart, unafraid to confront the situation – a bleeding and injured driver. “I was concerned with getting in the car.”

Originally from St. Rose Du Lac, Labelle attended a school in Louis Riel school Division, in Winnipeg, to continue his French education.

There he took a leadership course that has stayed with him to this day. As a high school student he learned first aid response including how to take leadership in different situations.

“The next gentleman that pulled up...” recounts Labelle, “I already had my utility knife out, I requested that he call the ambulance, rather than take my time away...I was already in the car.”

At that point he was able to cut Simpson’s seat belt. Simpson tells, “He tried to control me, to stay quiet in the car. I was bleeding. I had a gash in my head.” Oak Lake Fire Department
was quickly on the scene, then RCMP. Labelle, inside the car, was able to help the crash victim. He covered her with a fire fi ghter’s coat to protect her from glass and debris as the Jaws of
Life opened the car to safely extract her.

Simpson was taken by ambulance to Brandon hospital.

Labelle’s car was drivable and he continued home.

Norma Simpson suffered a couple of broken bones as well as the gash on her scalp. She convalesced in Virden Health Centre. Labelle visited the senior several times afterward,
to see how she was.

On May 21, Simpson stated, “Dr. Hamel said I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”

Norma Simpson had never been in an accident before, but she picked the right fellow to have an accident with and by providence, her car rolled into a shallow ditch, just yards beyond a deep ditch
east of Oak Lake.

She is a woman full of gratitude for the kindness of others, aware that the accident could have turned out much differently.

Paul Labelle is also being honoured in the Manitoba Legislature for his citizenship.

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