NL Lifesavers Honoured

By: Jason Sheppard

Two Newfoundland men are being recognized for saving the lives of children they love


The morning of July 18, 2015 was just another gorgeous summer morning for Don Northcotte and his family in Hermitage-Sandyville. The Northcottes decided to spend the day at Hermitage Falls, the nearby community park. The park’s swimming hole is located two to three minutes down a trail. 

Administered CPR

On this morning, Don’s two boys Lincoln and Donavon, ran ahead of their mother, Nina. When eight-year old Lincoln reached the end of the trail he found his friend already in the water and jumped right in after him. Lincoln went under the water. 

Northcotte was called, who raced down the trail and into the water to retrieve the boy, who was now completely submerged. When he pulled his son out, he administered CPR while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. 

Northcotte remembers the day vividly. “When I took Lincoln out of the water, his lips were as blue as they could ever be,” he recalls. “His body was lifeless.”

That morning, Northcotte remembered the first-aid training he received back in 2002 through a St. John Ambulance course he took while studying to be an electrician. 

The training focused on infants and this he says, was crucial in knowing what and what not to do on that morning. In those long moments while he was attempting to save his son’s life, everything he learned years ago snapped back into his mind in an instant. “I swear to God, it was like my instructor was back at my shoulder saying ‘don’t blow too hard in the lungs, don’t push too hard on the chest,’ it was like he was behind me telling me step-to-step what to do,” Northcotte said.

Almost Lost A Son

The father kept working on his son, until he heard a loud gasp of air emerge from the boy. “It was some release,” Northcotte recalls.

 Lincoln was helped to his feet – still coughing up water – and by this time the ambulance had arrived. It wasn’t until later in the day that reality hit the shaken dad. “I think I broke down about an hour later, I was like ‘Oh my God, I almost lost a son today,’”   

St. John Ambulance became aware of the incident through the town’s local MHA Tracey Perry, who felt that Northcotte was a perfect candidate to receive the St. John Life-Saving Award, an honour given to individuals who have saved or attempted to save a life, regardless of the risk, through the application of first aid knowledge and skill. 

Northcotte was honoured in 2016 and while he admits the recognition from St. John Ambulance is a wonderful acknowledgment, the truly important thing to him is that Lincoln, now 11, is safe and with them.  

“It’s good to get recognized, but my greatest reward is to sit down with my son and go fishing, kayaking, hunting – all kinds of activities. My reward is that I’m still able to do that with him.”

Another Hero

Clarence Russell of Coley’s Point, NL is a very private man and admits he is uncomfortable being the focus of attention. But on May 24th, Russell received a great deal of attention – for a wonderful reason. Russell was given the St. John Life-Saving Award for saving the life of his 10-year old grandson, Nathan, on October 10th of last year.

Russell and his wife Joanne regularly watch their two grandchildren, two boys, while their mother works with Moore’s Ambulance Service at Clarke’s Beach. 

On this evening, Joanne was having supper in the kitchen with the boys. Nathan, who suffers from several allergies, has to have his food cut into small portions. “We have to watch what he’s eating,” explains Russell.  

Russell was in the next room watching the NTV Newshour when all of a sudden he heard Joanne asking Nathan if he was okay. By the time Russell got out to the kitchen, the boy’s face had turned blue and purple. Fortunately, Russell knew what to do and acted quickly. 

“I got him around me and then started smacking him on the back between the two shoulder blades,” he recalls. “After the fifth blow, Nathan coughed it up.” 

It was a piece of chicken which had been stuck in Nathan’s throat. 

What’s Truly Important 

Russell, who’s been trained in safety over the past 20 years while working various jobs, was working for the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts two weeks before the choking incident occurred. Part of his job requirement was to undergo a refresher course in First Aid with St. John Ambulance.

Russell participated in the course with Paul Snow from St. John Ambulance, whom he had known from the Bay Roberts fire service. It was this course which Russell believes helped him know what to do to save his grandson’s life.    

Russell later mentioned to Snow that the training session he took part in made a difference on that day. Snow told St. John Ambulance about the incident and from there, Russell was a prime candidate for award consideration.   

Joanne received the call from St. John Ambulance in which they asked her some questions. The Honours and Award committee then later informed them that her husband had been chosen.  

“I really didn’t want any recognition for saving Nathan,” Russell said. “But I said I’d go along with it.” 

So how does Russell feel about the honour now that’s he’s been honoured? “Good,” he says with a laugh. Also doing good these days – 11-year-old Nathan.  

The day Russell received his honour from St. John Ambulance, the grandparents wanted Nathan to come with them but the 10-year old was understandably nervous. They all gathered at the boy’s house later that day where Russell had a photo taken of the two of them – with Nathan proudly holding up granddad’s award.   

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