Teen took charge at fiery crash scene

He was doing what he trained for, says father

By Laura Stradiotto/The Sudbury Star Aug 30, 2005

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Ben Larochelle (right) shows off his commendation with his dad Alain. Ben was one of four people who pulled a man from a car after it had flipped and caught fire in southern Ontario.

Photo: Gino Donato/The Sudbury Star

A Val Caron teen risked his life to save a stranger pinned underneath a flipped car beside one of Ontario’s busiest highways. Ben Larochelle, 15, is a cadet with the 2912 Sudbury Irish Royal Canadian Army Cadets. Three weeks ago, he was on weekend leave from the summer cadet training at Blackdown Borden in Barrie. Ben and his father, Alain, had spent time in Niagara Falls and were returning the Sunday morning on the QEW when a suped-up car zoomed by, doing more than 130 km/h. The car lost control, skidded across four lanes of traffic and landed on its roof on a service road. While two of the occupants escaped, one man was trapped, his arm stuck in the sun roof that was smashed against the pavement.

Ben said his four years of training as a cadet kicked in when he ordered his father to pull to the side of the road. “Once I put the van in park, the doors unlocked and he was gone,” recalled Alain. What followed was a dramatic rescue that put Ben’s physical training to the test. “I jumped over a fence, ran down the street and my father had to follow me,” said Ben. Alain worried not only about his son’s safety, but what he would find when he reached the crash site. Some motorcyclists had pulled over too and tried to no avail to free the man. Ben joined the two rescuers and struggled to lift the vehicle. As the flames grew, the victim panicked, screaming in desperation for them to cut off his arm. “I looked around for a rock to wedge underneath so we could lift it even higher than we did before to get him out,” said Ben. When that didn’t work, Ben scaled a 10-foot fence. He spotted a log that he could use as a wedge. “I jumped the fence and threw the log over,” said Ben.

“My dad grabbed it and put it near the guy’s arm to lift it up.” The men managed to raise the vehicle high enough for the crash victim to escape. “We told him to sit down, relax because the ambulance was going to be there soon,” said Ben. “His arm was completely demolished. The skin was gone down to the bone.” When the men turned around, flames had completely engulfed the car. A few more minutes and the victim would have perished. “We were both shaking,” thinking the car could have exploded, killing the trapped man and those attempting to free him, said Alain.

When paramedics and firefighters arrived, the father-son team left the scene. The two later called police to give a report. Ben, who will be entering Grade 11 at l’Horizon Secondary School, is a typical teenager, said his father, but “he took charge” in a situation that required a leader. 
He was doing what he has been trained for, said Alain. When the teen returned to camp, he was recognized by his superiors for his bravery with a certificate of commendation.