As It Happens

A woman was trapped under a car in B.C. — until these bystanders helped lift it off her

After Claire Surgenor became pinned under a vehicle, a group of onlookers and RCMP officers worked together to lift the car and save her life.

'I'm alive today because people came together to help me,' says 72-year-old Claire Surgenor

Gerard and his girlfriend Kari dropped everything and ran to Surgenor when they saw her get struck by the vehicle. (Photo submitted by Gerard Hunter )

Claire Surgenor says she might not be alive if not for a group of nine strangers and their biceps.

Two of those nine people were Gerard Hunter and his girlfriend.

The couple were drinking coffee at a café in Nanaimo, B.C., when they saw Surgenor and her bicycle get pinned beneath a vehicle across the street. The couple ran toward her.

"We immediately dropped everything," Hunter told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"We were communicating with the person under the vehicle and then the driver of the vehicle as well, who was unaware that he had actually hit anybody."

'We're planning on lifting a vehicle?'

Meanwhile, 72-year-old Surgenor was fighting to stay conscious.

"I think I was hit in the head. I remember being rapidly dragged under with quite a speed. There was the metal of the car on one side of me, and concrete on the other," she said. "I was fighting for breath."

Within seconds, various onlookers and two RCMP officers joined the effort to help Surgenor.

It was then the group noticed Surgenor was no longer moving.

Cyclist Claire Surgenor had fallen off her bike in a Nanaimo, B.C., parking lot when a car ran over her and she became trapped beneath it. (Photo submitted by Ron Surgenor)

"I believe that she was suffocating under the vehicle," Hunter said.

"The RCMP member mentioned that we have to lift this vehicle off this person immediately. The thought did go through my mind, like, 'Really? We're planning on lifting a vehicle?'"

And they did.

While eight of them held the Lexus sedan up on its side, another person pulled Surgenor from harm's way.

"It really wasn't a super strenuous lift. I don't know if it was adrenaline or not. There were enough people there to safely lift the vehicle," Hunter said.

'I was sure I was dying'

Surgenor gained consciousness moments after being out from under the car.

The cyclist has since spent a day in the hospital and been released to recover at home. She suffered a fractured rib, a punctured lung and a bruised liver.

"I'm alive today because people came together to help me," she said. "I was sure I was dying underneath there."

Hunter says it boils down to a common goal; the group wanted to get Surgenor to safety, so they all did their part to ensure that happened.

"It all happened so quickly — within a couple minutes — and it seemed like everybody had a job to do and a focus on taking care of this woman," he said.

"There was no time to think about anything else or worry about your emotions and become distracted."

A Google Streetview image shows the area near the intersection of Rutherford and Nelson roads in Nanaimo, B.C., where Surgenor was struck. (Google Streetview)

In the days since the collision, Surgenor is feeling much better and says she's overwhelmed with gratitude.

"Wear your helmet," she said.

"Live your life with a grateful heart. No matter what, bad things will happen, but believe that you can stand up again."

Written by Emilie Quesnel. Interviews with Gerard Hunter and Claire Surgenor produced by Jeanne Armstrong.