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BLIZZARD | Rescue

Police rescue woman trapped in donation bin during snowstorm


CBC News

Saturday, January 26, 2019, 10:39 AM - A woman is lucky to be alive after being rescued from a clothing donation bin in Miramichi, N.B.

A city police officer was driving past the Lord Beaverbrook Arena around 3:30 a.m. Monday during the height of the overnight blizzard and noticed something odd with the flap on one of two metal bins stationed near the rink.

After recent thefts from donation bins, the officer stopped to check it out only to find a 60-year-old woman was trapped inside.

"He, after a little bit of a struggle and a lot of wiggling, was able to assist her in getting out and getting her to safety," said deputy police chief Brian Cummings.

The woman, who had been inside for a few hours, was "extremely cold" but ultimately OK. The officer brought her to a residence.

Cummings said the metal bins offer no warmth, and there was no getting out once inside. The woman would have been in "dire straits" within a few more hours, he said.

A 60-year-old woman was rescued by a police officer after becoming trapped inside the clothing donation bin on the left. Credit: Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC

That makes the officer's observation, which was made dozens of feet from the road during a severe snowstorm, even more remarkable.

"She was definitely in peril. It was quite fortuitous that he came by," Cummings said.

"It really was quite something. We're very proud of him."

The officer declined to be interviewed.

The deputy chief said the woman is not homeless, and it remains unclear exactly why she climbed in through the front flap. The bin has a door, but it is locked.

Deputy chief Brian Cummings of the Miramichi Police Force said the woman was in grave danger. Credit: Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC

The bin belongs to the Children's Wish Foundation. A New Brunswick representative did not respond to a request for comment.

'DEATH TRAPS'

Donation bins have claimed the lives of seven Canadians since 2015. The most recent incident happened on Dec. 30, 2018, when a man was found lodged in a bin in Vancouver.

Describing them as "death traps," advocates are calling for the bins to be redesigned or taken out of use altogether.

Cummings shows how the woman entered the metal donation bin. Credit: Gabrielle Fahmy/CBC

It was a first for Miramichi, Cummings said.

Patricia Michaud, executive director of the Miramichi Emergency Centre for Women, said it's common for people desperate for shelter to put themselves in harm's way to find it.

Although the woman wasn't homeless in this instance, Michaud said the town is in dire need of a homeless shelter before something tragic happens, especially during a week of severe winter weather like the one that just passed.

Her shelter is a transition shelter for abused women, but they often make exceptions for women needing a roof over their heads.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy, Colin McPhail.

This story was originally published by CBC News.

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