Girl Guide leader earns valour award

After saving one of her troop from drowning during a canoe trip last August, local Girl Guide leader Sandra Tibbs was honoured Saturday with the Girl Guides Canada National Gold Award of Valour.
The award was presented to her by the girl she saved, Emily Taylor, at a meeting in Dryden.
“It was a surprise. I was kind of in shock that everyone that was involved in the incident was there,” said Tibbs, who is the Fort Frances District Commissioner and a Pathfinder leader.
The accident happened during “The La Verendrye Division Canoe Adventure,” which saw Girl Guides from Fort Frances, Dryden, and Ignace take an expedition to a camp on Perch Lake owned by the Boy Scouts of America.
While carrying canoes in the shallow edge of some rapids in the Turtle Lake area, northwest of Atikokan, Tibbs said Taylor had stepped on the wrong side of the canoe she was carrying with Gwen Andrews, one of the trip co-ordinators.
“She stepped down and there was nothing there. She fell back. But she had her lifejacket on, so she was bobbing,” noted Tibbs. “And that saved her life right there.”
Tibbs, who was at the tail end of the group, heard Taylor screaming as she fought to keep her head above water. Since Andrews was unable to reach the girl, Tibbs secured her canoe and jumped into the rapids which were flowing towards Taylor.
“I went right past her, and then had to swim against the current to get back to her,” Tibbs recalled. “I managed to free her foot, then I flung her over my shoulder and set her floating with the current towards the front of the group.”
The whole ordeal lasted but five minutes, Tibbs guessed.
“We sat on the shore for a while waiting for my heart to calm down. I told her, ‘Don’t do that again,’” she said.
“Her mother [Dorothy Taylor] is one of my best friends, and I was thinking, ‘I almost got my best friend’s daughter killed.’”
“The interesting thing about it is, even though I’m getting recognition, it’s not something I would want to go through again,” said Tibbs. “The important thing is that everybody returned home from the trip safely.
“I guess the moral of the story is, if you’ve got safety equipment, use it.”
Taylor recalled her harrowing experience Monday while she and her fellow Girl Guides were selling cookies outside North American Lumber here.
“We were walking with our canoes, because there wasn’t a trail to portage. My foot got caught on some rocks and I fell backwards,” she said. “It was scary.
“I was bobbing. I came up a couple times, and screamed,” added Taylor.
“It was very frightening,” recounted Jenna Enge, who was among the other Girl Guides on trip. “It happened so fast.”
“Sandra went down the rapids and then swam back up to me. She helped me get free,” noted Taylor. “I’m thankful for her quick thinking.”
“We’re very proud of Sandra,” added Enge to the cheers of her fellow Girl Guides who surrounded her while recounting the story.
“Yes, she did a wonderful job,” smiled Taylor.