It was nearly two years ago Shane Michael Doucette put his own life at risk to rescue a co-worker he found floating face down in a tank filled with deadly methane gas.
Earlier this week, he was among 17 acknowledged for their bravery with citations from the Governor General of Canada.
Doucette, like so many Newfoundlanders, found work in the oilpatch after leaving the province about 12 years ago. It was in the field, Aug. 18, 2008, he saw the lid up on one of the tanks and his colleague, Jason Riggs also of Newfoundland, was nowhere in sight.
The tanks were used to store fluids from the well and there was no reason for a lid to be up.
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he ran over to see what was amiss. He found Riggs inside, face down in the fluid. Despite warnings never to enter the tank, Doucette wasn’t about to stand by and do nothing.
“He held his breath and jumped down through the hatch into the confined space full of toxic gas,” the citation states.
He pulled the unconscious body to the ladder and climbed for air. After a few big breaths, down he went again to carry him out.
Another co-worker, who responded to his shouts for help, aided them out of the tank and Doucette performed CPR to revive Riggs while they waited for the ambulance.
Doucette will be receiving a medal of bravery, an award recognizing people who have risked their lives to save another.
While that description fits that of a hero, it is not a term Doucette applies to himself.
“All I know is I just happened to be the person that happened to be at the right place at the right time that could help,” he said from his home in Red Deer, Alta.
“I don’t think a person truly knows exactly what they would do until they are in that situation.
“It’s not something a person can say whether they can actually do, and then when it happens do it.”
To be honest, I was never more clear of mind. - Shane Michael Doucette
Doucette, who received his first CPR training as a volunteer with the ski patrol at Marble Mountain in Steady Brook, said he just reacted to the situation.
“To be honest, I was never more clear of mind,” he said.
“I saw a lot of things before me that I observed in the area and I reacted to those things to reduce the risk to myself. I realize I was never supposed to enter that tank, no doubt about that, but, because of the way things presented themselves, I just used my head. I seen an opportunity, seized it, and, with the help of Mr. McCloud (the other co-worker), we did a wonderful thing that day.”
Since that time, both Doucette and Riggs have been laid off from their jobs in the oilpatch. Riggs has returned to Newfoundland and Doucette hasn’t seen him since they got together to reminisce at the one-year anniversary of the incident. As far as he knows, the man recovered just fine from the incident and has always expressed his appreciation for what he did.
Doucette said he still has some bad memories associated with the incident. So, while he is honoured to receive the award, he said it is something he never wanted under those circumstances. The awards will be handed out at a later date during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
He is excited, yet nervous, about attending the ceremony and receiving the award. He also said he will make sure to display it proudly, along with the letter he received from the Governor General’s office, in his Newfoundland home.
Doucette, now 36, will be moving back to his hometown of Port au Port soon.
"You can take the boy from the bay, but you can’t take the bay from the boy,” he said.