It is with deep regret that The Source reports the death, Friday night, of 73-year-old Wayne Ackerman. He did not regain consciousness after Tuesday's massive heart attack - but was surrounded by family and friends when he died just before midnight. The family will be holding a celebration of life, and The Source will provide details as soon as arrangements have been finalized.
While Castlegar was being battered by a dramatic, record-breaking storm Tuesday afternoon, an even more dramatic saga was unfolding in the Safeway parking lot as bystanders kept a local 73-year-old heart attack victim alive.
Wayne Ackerman, a well-known Castlegar resident who has lived here since 1946 and worked for the city as well as serving as volunteer fire-fighter for decades, had finished his shopping and started his car when a massive heart attack left him unconscious in his car.
"The storm had already hit, and we had half-a-dozen people standing at the doors, waiting for it to abate," said Safeway manager Brian Bogle. "One of my off-duty Starbucks staffers came running in, saying there was someone passed out in his car, with the engine running and his foot on the gas."
Bystander John MacLeod is a local truck driver for Teck Cominco who was just waiting for the rain to let up before heading back to his camp site at Pass Creek.
"We could hear the car (engine), but we couldn't tell what that noise was," he said. "I saw Brian (Bogle) run out with another lad. (Brian) was hitting the window trying to break the glass with a shopping cart, so I went out, too."
Bogle succeeded in breaking through the rear driver's side window, ("I didn't want to smash the driver’s window and shower him with glass," Bogle said.) and reached through to open Ackerman's car door.
"He was slumped over the wheel ," Bogle said. "I pushed him back, recognized him, and shook him in case he was just passed out or something, but I couldn't get a pulse.
"I got his foot off the gas pedal, then ran back to the store to make sure they were calling an ambulance."
Meanwhile, MacLeod had arrived, and the two of them managed to get Ackerman out of the car and onto the ground in the lot, where MacLeod started CPR (both men have first aid training).
"The water was up over the tops of my shoes, but the drains were running freely, so weren't standing in a lake or anything," he said, but acknowledged they were being pelted by fierce rain, with thunder and lighting crashing overhead.
"The whole thing was kind of surreal," said MacLeod.
Bogle then said a woman came running across the lot, saying she was a paramedic - as it turns out, local paramedic Ellen Popoff Dickson was on call and happened to be in the credit union in the same plaza when the page came in for herself and her partner, Cathy Connell.
She came on the run and took over for MacLeod until first responders from the fire department (Micheal Gagnier and Leford Lafayette) arrived to help out, administering CPR in ankle-deep water, and Connell arrived with the ambulance shortly thereafter. Meanwhile, Bogle had run back into the store for first-aid supplies and an umbrella to shield emergency crews from the worst of the storm’s wrath.
Paramedics employed a defibrillator in the ambulance, then whisked Ackerman away to hospital. A soaked and shaken Bogle returned to the store, where he luckily had a change of clothes on hand.
“Cathy and Ellen came back with their ambulance that afternoon to let us know Wayne had made it to the hospital and that he was alive. I thought that was really nice of them – they knew the staff here all know Wayne because he’s a regular customer in the store,” Bogle said. “He always had a comment – we’d chat about sports whenever he came in, that was our routine. We’d done just that only five minutes before (all this happened).”
As of this morning, Ackerman has not regained consciousness and preparations are under way to transport him to Kelowna for surgery to address a life-threatening blood clot, according to his daughter, Tamara Nedelko. Thanks, however, to the efforts of Bogle, MacLeod, the Starbucks employee (who is under 18, so his name is being withheld), as well as emergency crews, he’s surrounded by family and loved ones as he faces this struggle.
Bogle said this isn’t the first time he’s seen bystanders jump to the aid of a stranger in crisis.
“I think that’s a great thing in this community,” he said.
He also pointed out the series of lucky events that helped keep Ackerman alive as the sky was almost literally falling down around them – that he hadn’t taken the car out of park before the heart attack hit, for example, that there was a bystander who knew CPR, and that there was a fully –trained paramedic just steps away.
The Source would like to extend our thoughts, prayers and good wishes to Ackerman, his family and his friends at this time. We’ll provide updates as to his condition, where doing so is in keeping with his and his family’s wishes.