Off duty cop saves woman from spending night in the cold

Cpl. Dwayne Latham's delayed flights between Edmonton and Whitehorse led him to save a young woman's life. He woke at 5 a.

Cpl. Dwayne Latham’s delayed flights between Edmonton and Whitehorse led him to save a young woman’s life.

He woke at 5 a.m. the morning of November 25 in an Edmonton hotel.

He was there for a week-long training course for the RCMP’s new anti-drug program designed for aboriginal youth.

He worked out, had breakfast and grabbed the shuttle for the airport, where he’d be delayed for hours.

The plane that was coming to Edmonton from Vancouver would then turn around and take him back to the Lower Mainland so he could catch the late flight to Whitehorse.

He was so worried he’d miss the flight home that he asked the attendant on the Edmonton-Vancouver leg to find out if the Yukon-bound plane was waiting for him.

Arriving in Vancouver, his Yukon flight was just about to leave the gate, but he made the connection.

He arrived in Whitehorse to meet … nobody. Because of the wonky flights, his wife didn’t know when he was getting home and wasn’t at the airport to pick him up when he landed at around 1:30 a.m.

Latham, his wife and two children live south of Whitehorse, so taxis aren’t an option.

He considered staying at a hotel for the night.

But he realized he had his work car keys, so he grabbed his RCMP vehicle from the detachment and began heading south on the Alaska Highway.

Latham doesn’t have a fully equipped police cruiser.

He does outreach and drug-awareness for children in Whitehorse schools. He’s not out in the field much.

On this morning, the snow banks on both sides of the road were high – the highway had recently been plowed and snow was still falling.

He was passing the Wolf Creek subdivision, where a stretch of street lamps illuminate the highway.

“At that point, I had been up almost 24 hours,” says Latham, referring to the one-hour time zone difference.

“I was exhausted.”

He passed an overturned vehicle in the ditch that initially looked like it had been abandoned for a while.

“What got me was the tail light – it was still on,” he says.

He also saw a wisp of snow come from the vehicle toward the highway, but it looked a lot like steam too.

He turned around, parked and walked toward the car.

He did a walk-around of the vehicle, which had its front buried in the snow.

“And then I heard a voice,” he says.

He doesn’t remember what the young woman was saying, but he immediately called for an ambulance and began digging to find her.

Having lost his gloves in an Edmonton taxi, his hands were freezing. It was minus 11 degrees Celsius at the time.

On the passenger side, he found the window open with her torso facing him.

Her hands and legs were completely trapped, and he could only see her face by staring deep into the front of the car.

At that point, three young people parked on the highway.

A young woman began comforting the woman trapped inside, while the two guys drove to a nearby home to get shovels.

Within 10 minutes, Constables Adolf Mohr and Glenn Taylor arrived on the scene.

Latham handed control of the situation over to them, and he waited until the ambulance and fire truck arrived.

The two guys arrived with the shovels when the fire truck got there and the trapped woman, who is 19-years-old, was dug out.

She was taken to Whitehorse General Hospital where she was treated and released.

Once cleared, the RCMP took her to the detachment for a breathalyzer test. It’s not clear whether she was charged for drunk driving.

Latham isn’t comfortable taking responsibility for the rescue (he refused to be photographed alone for that reason.)

“Everybody played a role in this,” he said.

“After 12 years of experience, you realize everyone can be that person who saves another,” he said.

“We hear about it all the time on the news, in the radio, when you live in the North.”

But Latham might be a little more resilient than most.

After the accident, he arrived home and surprised his wife, who thought he missed his flight.

A few hours later, he went to work – this time in uniform.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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