Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's cabbie, hailed as hero for saving teens from burning car, awarded for bravery

Jiffy Cabs driver Mike Stapleton says an act of intervention allowed him to save four lives one night in May. He received an award for that bravery Monday.

Jiffy Cabs driver Mike Stapleton received award Monday for heroic act last spring

Jiffy Cabs driver Mike Stapleton rescued four people from a crashed car in St. John's in May. (Submitted by Deanne Stapleton)

A cab driver hailed for saving four people in May from a car about to burst into flames was honoured at Monday's St. John's city council meeting.

Jiffy Cabs employee Mike Stapleton received the Royal Canadian Humane Association Canada Bravery Award, which recognizes deeds of heroism by civilians across the country.

Mayor Danny Breen recounted the events of that night, describing how Stapleton came across a smoking car crumpled under a concrete overpass in Shea Heights.

It was just after 2 a.m., and Stapleton was the only other person on the road.

He looked inside the car, expecting to find it empty. Instead, four teenage occupants were trapped inside, two of them unconscious and the other two screaming.

Stapleton called dispatch to send help and was able to drag one of the passengers to safety.

He struggled to free the other two; one was blocked in by a jammed door, the other's foot was trapped under the driver's seat. Both eventually escaped with Stapleton's help.

It's like someone sent me there.- Mike Stapleton

By the time he turned to the driver, whom Stapleton was wary of moving due to his injuries, flames had broken out under the dashboard.

"I had to move quicker," he recalled after receiving Monday's award. "This could have been seconds, [but] it felt like 15, 20 minutes to me."

Just moments after freeing the driver and dragging him to safety, Stapleton said he could sense the danger.

"I said, 'That's gonna blow.' Never had the words out of my mouth … and the flames started coming up," he told CBC's As It Happens last spring. "And my heart went up in my mouth."

The car exploded with a bang shortly after, with all its occupants lying safely on the sidewalk.

'Could have lost his life'

His wife, Coun. Deanne Stapleton, reflected on that night. She said she's proud but also thankful her husband made it out alive.

Stapleton said the award was well deserved. "It could have been a different outcome," she said. "He could have lost his life."

That night still comes up in conversation, she says; the teens and their families have kept in touch.

Stapleton, who called the entire experience humbling, still harbours a sense of amazement that he was in the right place at the right time.

"It's like someone sent me there," he said. "I was meant to be there."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Adam Walsh and As It Happens


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