The RCMP are calling it an “unbelievable act of heroism” and would like to publicly recognize him, but Nick Karol, 31, who earlier this week shielded a seven-year-old girl from falling trees and hydro wires, potentially saving her life, says he’s no hero and he just acted instinctively.
In the late afternoon of April 7, Karol, a steelhead fishing guide, was fixing his truck with a friend at a residence on Bornite Mountain Road – in the Kleanza Creek area east of Terrace – when a high wind storm began swaying and knocking down trees.
As the winds grew more intense, a school bus carrying 14 students arrived, dropping off several who live in the area.
Because a tree had already fallen across the road, the students were let off further away from their regular stop.
As Karol and his friend walked toward the small group to help them get around the fallen tree, the stronger gusts of wind began to tear at trees still standing.
Karol said he saw the trees pulsating and the soil from the roots as the trees began to lift, so he began yelling at the students to run.
“I was like, ‘Oh God, I have to get those kids out of the road,’” he said. “Then the wind gusted again and the trees just started cracking and crashing down. All of the older kids ran right into the forest but there was two girls … I told the one girl, run into the forest, and the other girl just curled up into a ball and started screaming right in the middle of the road as the trees were coming down. So I picked up the girl in my arms, and I stepped like two steps then I got hit by the trees and I just held the trees off of her as they came crashing down on us.”
While keeping keeping the girl tucked underneath him, he rolled back and forth dodging falling trees.
“It was like daylight was almost gone (because of the falling trees),” Karol said. “I just braced… It was deadly.”
Once he could tell that the trees had stopped falling he slowly began peeling off debris and hydro wires – the wires weren’t live because a nearby transformer had been knocked out about an hour earlier. He then got up and handed the girl off to her dad who by then had arrived on the scene.
“It all just happened so fast, I was in shock,” Karol said, noting the whole incident couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two.
“The whole forest fell on us, like, right on the children.”
Terrace RCMP Constable Shane Nicoll said the maze of fallen trees, one of which landed on the school bus, resembled a “war zone.”
He described Karol’s quick actions as “an unbelievable act of heroism.”
The Terrace RCMP detachment itself is looking for a way to recognize his act of bravery.
Karol insists he just followed his instincts.
“I’m not a hero, I just did… I did my job,” he said. “I’m a sailor, I’ve spent a lot of time doing safety courses. I’m always the safety guy.”
Karol said he’s still recovering from his injuries – his upper body and right arm were hurt when the tree fell on him, his arm was scraped up and his jacket was ripped.
And that old truck he’d been working on before the windstorm? Gone. A tree fell on it, making it too expensive to repair. A tree fell on his friend’s new truck, as well, he said.
“The kid is safe, that’s the only issue here,” Karol said. “I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Trees are coming down, get the kids out of there.”