Mount Forest student honoured for saving driver’s life

By Mark Pare

MOUNT FOREST – A Grade 12 student at Wellington Heights Secondary School has been honoured for her bravery following a fiery crash in front of her Highway 6 home last month.

Tori van Tol was presented with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Medal during a ceremony at school in front of family and friends.

“It was a huge surprise,” she told GuelphToday of getting the medal. “I didn't even know what to say. Usually, I plan out what I'm going to say before I say it. I had no words.”

No words needed to be spoken. Her actions spoke volumes on Oct. 18.

She was sitting at home alone after opting not to join her family at her sister's hockey game, looking out her front window.

“I just saw this truck and this car (on the road),” she said. “The car was veering into his lane, and they just hit.

“Flames are just coming from this car and this truck.”

The truck ended up on the front lawn. The driver got out to tend to his vehicle with a fire extinguisher. The car ended up on the opposite side of the road.

“I grabbed my shoes, and then I ran outside,” she said. “The guy seemed fine, he was taking care of his truck, so I ran across the road to where the other vehicle was.”

“(I) opened the door, the girl's hair was flaming, it was on fire. I pulled her out of the car, other people were rushing over from other vehicles.”

Van Tol, who is in the midst of doing a nursing co-op and applied to post-secondary institutions to get into nursing, put her education into action, asking the woman various questions to check for any potential injuries or possible memory loss.

When van Tol called 911 to get an ambulance, that was a task in itself as her address recently changed and wasn't in the system.

That got sorted out, and first responders made it to the scene. Van Tol said she was able to help them get the woman further away from the car. She said she had hurt her arm and ankle, but was responsive and remained conscious.

“One of my friends actually knows this guy who is related to her,” she said, adding she heard the woman is now going through rehab for her injuries.

And in another case of a small world, van Tol said the driver of the truck – who suffered a concussion in the crash – is one of her friend's uncles.

“Obviously I called my parents after it was over, and I'm like 'dad, there's this truck in our laneway (and) he's like is the laneway okay?'” van Tol said with a laugh. 

“(I said) yes, the laneway's fine, but they actually had to dig out our laneway because the diesel fuel leaked everywhere, so our laneway wasn't fine.”

During the presentation, school staff also acknowledged how van Tol didn't spread photos of the crash on social media, or “boast about her involvement.”

She thought back a year or so, when one of her brother's friends was in a crash in Barrie.

“People videotaped it, but no one called 911,” van Tol said.

“These two boys had to crawl out of this burning vehicle – that crash was a lot worse than this one – and it was like 'if I was ever in that kind of situation, I wouldn't want somebody driving by, videotaping me as my legs are broken and I can't physically walk out of this vehicle.'”

She said knowing that story, it shaped what she did this time around.

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