British Columbia

Williams Lake woman shocked no one stopped to help man having heart attack

When Yvonne Turner heard that no one had stopped to help a man who was having a heart attack in the parking lot of a Save On Foods, she was shocked.

'If he didn’t manage to call 911 he would’ve been lying there dying'

When Yvonne Turner saw a man lying on the ground between this boat trailer and truck, she needed to make sure he was OK. As it turned out, 74-year-old Stephen Brent was having a heart attack, and no one else had yet stopped to help. (Yvonne Turner)

A routine trip to the grocery store took a frightening turn when a Williams Lake woman happened upon a man having a heart attack in the parking lot.

Yvonne Turner spotted 74-year-old Stephen Brent lying on the ground with his cellphone in his hand displaying an emergency screen.

"He was obviously older, obviously travelling and he was [lying] still. He had a dog sitting beside him looking very concerned," Turner explained to CBC Radio West host  Sarah Penton.

She called 911, flagged down the paramedics and guided them to the rear of the parking lot, then gave her contact information to the ambulance driver.

She later learned Brent said he saw people walking past him who did not offer to help and that she was the first to stop. 

"If he didn't manage to call 911, he would've been lying there dying," said Turner. 

Annual fishing trip

Turner offered to take care of Brent's dog and even came back to move his truck, camper and boat to her property where it would be more secure.

In the meantime, Brent was transferred to a hospital in Kelowna.

It wasn't long before Turner was contacted by Brent's significant other, Cheryl Mehrling, who filled her in on some more details.

Brent was passing through Williams Lake, where he stops every year, to purchase supplies for his annual fly fishing trip into the wilderness.

Brent was enroute to Dragon Lake, just southeast of Quesnel, where Mehrling said he often spends up to a month at a time in the backcountry.

He had just finished packing his coolers with ice and food when the heart attack happened.

"He was actually very fortunate, because it could have happened when he was driving or out on a lake somewhere," said Turner, who still has Brent's dog Sally as well as the truck, camper and boat at her home.

One good Samaritan

Stephen Brent's dog, Sally, was set to accompany him on an annual fishing trip before Brent had a heart attack. Yvonne Turner, who found Brent and waited for paramedics to arrive, is currently caring for Sally while Brent is in a hospital in Kelowna.

Turner said what shocked her most about the unexpected emergency was that Brent said he saw people walk by him who didn't offer to help. He said that Turner was the first to offer assistance.

"Obviously, he's someone's dad, someone's uncle, someone's relative, and anybody should just stop to find out if someone's OK," she said.

Mehrling and other family members have travelled from Seattle to Kelowna to be with Brent who is in hospital recovering and is expected to have surgery within a week.

Members of Brent's family are heading to Williams Lake on Thursday to pick up his belongings and take them home to Seattle.

Mehrling said they will likely return to Kelowna, where Brent is expected to be for a few weeks, when he is ready for surgery.

Community responding

Williams Lake is no stranger to emergency situations, after the entire town was evacuated during the worst of the wildfire season this past summer.

Now, businesses and community members are coming forward to offer assistance to the family.

"I think they're going to feel some love from Williams Lake," said Turner.

A package — including gas and grocery store gift cards as well as treats for Sally — is being put together for the family and Turner said Brent and Mehrling will always have a friend in the Cariboo.

"He can look us up. He will know somebody in Williams Lake," she said.  

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West


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