You’d think after 24 years in journalism, I would be jaded by now, or cynical if you prefer that term. When it comes to senseless deaths, I am not.
But I am going to play “Devil’s Advocate” for the space of this column, because I once again saw a senseless death last week that could have been avoided. A Thorsby area service station owner, probably fed up with crime such as shoplifting, tried to stop a cube van performing a $200 “gas and dash” from his gas pumps. Apparently, during this man’s attempt to stop the vehicle that was leaving without paying for fuel, the vehicle struck the businessman and he subsequently died. Police are still searching for the vehicle and driver. Or “killer,” if that’s what you’d prefer to call the driver.
I don’t want readers thinking that I’m some kind of cold-blooded ghoul who laughs at the misfortune of others. Ask any of my friends or co-workers, I am the first to volunteer to help others in virtually any situation.
But I have a point to make. Bear with me.
On Nov. 23, 2015 Alberta was dealing with a nasty early snowstorm, not unlike the one that just struck the Stettler region Oct. 2. A fellow named Manmeet Bhullar, PC MLA for Calgary-Greenaway, was traveling on Hwy#2 north of Red Deer. The blizzard conditions were horrible, and Bhullar came across a vehicle in the ditch. He voluntarily stopped to help the people inside and then was struck by an 18-wheeled truck that lost control on the icy freeway behind him.
Bhullar made the wrong decision. He should never have stopped. Nowadays, most people have cell phones and are able to call 911 or a tow truck themselves, and even if they can’t, police vehicles will be regularly patrolling and will quickly find any stranded motorists. In fact, I’ve interviewed several RCMP officers over the years who’ve told me, “Don’t stop in that weather. You’re risking your life for nothing.” There’s nothing you can likely do, as most of us don’t drive a vehicle that can pull someone out of the ditch anyway. Bhullar was only 35 years old and had a family.
The Thorsby gas station owner, Ki Yun Jo, was 54 years old and had a family. He shouldn’t have tried to stop the thief; Yun Jo’s life was worth far more than $200. The best thing anyone can do in such a situation is get a photo of the license plate, photo of the vehicle and a photo of the suspects if it’s safe to do so. After the police catch the culprit, a victim of crime has options to recover any damage, such as restitution.
I understand the urge to help people in trouble, but in some situations there really is little or nothing a Good Samaritan can do.
Don’t risk your life for nothing.
Stu Salkeld is the temporary editor of The Stettler Independent and writes a regular column for the paper.