Don Paynter doesn’t consider himself a hero. He considers himself lucky.
Paynter choked back tears this afternoon as he recounted how he pulled 95-year-old Everett Gray from a submerged truck at the Charlottetown Yacht Club.
It is estimated that Gray spent close to two minutes under water before Paynter pulled him out of the cab of the truck and to safety.
Gray was sitting up and talking to paramedics before they transported him to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to get checked out.
Gray, who didn’t want to do an interview, merely said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
“My one thought was to get him out,’’ Paynter said, struggling with his composure. “Luckily . . . I consider myself lucky that we got the window down (in the truck).’’
Everett is the father of yacht club member Wayne Gray. Wayne decided to take his father, a resident at Whisperwood Villa, out for the day.
Wayne and Paynter were using a half-tonne truck to remove a boat from the water at the yacht club. The truck was on the yacht club slip when the truck started sliding on the slippery green moss that coats the bottom of the slip.
“We had the truck on the wharf with the trailer on back. When we put the boat on the trailer, because the wharf was quite slippery underneath the truck, the truck lost its grip and it simply slid under the water,’’ Wayne Gray told The Guardian at the scene. “I was on board the boat.’’
“The truck came back with the trailer and the boat. It kind of jack-knifed. I was afraid that Don, who works with me . . . I was scared he was going to get caught in between the truck that was (sliding down) and the boat trailer.’’
Paynter, who said the truck was in park, knew there was nothing he could do.
“It happened so quickly,’’ Paynter said. “I couldn’t even think about getting into the cab. Wayne started yelling at me because he thought I was going to get caught between the boat and the truck.
“My concern at that point was just getting the boat off (the trailer). I thought it might help slow the truck down but then we all ended up in the water. Then my concern was about Everett . . .’’ Paynter said, stopping to take a moment to gather himself.
Wayne said he knew his father, who was in the passenger seat, didn’t have great mobility.
At this point, the truck was starting to submerge. Wayne tried to come up with a plan, knowing every second counted.
“I knew the water is quite deep and I know (Dad) is not able to swim nor is he able to get himself out of the truck.’’
Wayne leaned over to his father’s side to unbuckle Everett’s seatbelt. Wayne’s weight made the truck tip. Now the water was gushing in Everett’s window.
Paynter yelled at Wayne to put his father’s window down because there wasn’t enough time to open the door.
“Then the water started flooding in. I yelled at (Wayne) to let the seatbelt go, that we were going to have to get Everett out through the window,’’ Paynter said.
Wayne said within seconds the truck, with Everett inside, was completely under water.
"He’s as tough as an old pine knot.’’ Wayne Gray about his Dad, Everett
“The truck went down very quickly. (Dad) was actually underwater. He was probably underwater a minute and a half.’’
Paynter struggled to describe what happened next.
“I got his arm out from underneath the seat belt but,’’ he said, pausing, “he just wasn’t moving.’’
Paynter said the water actually made Everett buoyant, making it a bit easier to extract him from the truck.
“I’ve never been so close to what could have happened,’’ he said, overcome with emotion.
“I consider myself lucky, really lucky, that we got the window down and that Wayne got the seat belt undone. Just really lucky that this (incident) has a good ending.’’
Wayne paused for a few seconds when asked what was going through his mind during the ordeal.
“It was pretty scary. I don’t know. I didn’t have any flashbacks. You just do what you need to do. My dad lives at Whisperwood. I take him out quite a bit because it’s enjoyable for him to get out and it doesn’t matter what he’s doing.
“We were coming to get the boat and he’s just around with the guys. He certainly didn’t have another day at Whisperwood, that’s for sure,’’ Wayne laughed.
Wayne said he isn’t worried about how his father will handle it all.
“He’s feeling great. He’s as tough as an old pine knot.’’