Tofino’s B.C. Ambulance Station Unit 136 was honoured with a Tony Sunderland Memorial Plaque of Pride in Tofino on Nov. 10. Back row from left

Tofino paramedics awarded for actions in aftermath of Leviathan II disaster

"The Tony Sunderland award is about people who are able to really dedicate themselves to their community."

Tofino’s B.C. Ambulance team have hung a well-deserved and rarely-given trophy on their station’s wall.

B.C. Emergency Health Services brass brought a Tony Sunderland Memorial Plaque of Pride to bestow upon the local paramedics at Station 136 Tofino for their heroics in the wake of the Leviathan II whale watching disaster on Oct. 25, 2015.

An award ceremony was held on Nov. 10. It was just the ninth time since 1990 that the revered honour has been given.

It was originally presented to Tofino at an Oct. 4 ceremony in Vancouver but BCEHS’  Chief Operating Officer Jodi Jensen told the Westerly News some team members were unable to make it to the mainland and it was important to recognize the crew in their community.

“It was so important, because of the nature of the award, to actually come here and be in the community to be able to present it here,” she said.

“We really wanted to be here today in the station with our crew in Tofino because the Tony Sunderland award is about people who are able to really dedicate themselves to their community, helping their communities, serving their communities, being a part of their communities. They’re doing that through their service as paramedics, but they’re doing it in relation to that sense of service to community.”

During the ceremony, Jensen said the award is given in recognition of dedication, loyalty and strong community commitment, which Tofino’s ambulance crew displayed in spades while rallying to support the Leviathan II’s survivors.

“For your dedication, your caring, your compassion, your teamwork in the face of extreme adversity we’ve chosen you to receive this award,” she said.

“You went above and beyond to support each other and deliver excellent care to your patients.  You worked like the consummate professionals you are with your healthcare teams and other first responder agencies to ensure that everyone was well cared for and supported throughout. This was obviously an extremely difficult and challenging situation.”

Tofino’s B.C. Ambulance Unit Chief Bill Craven said the gamut of West Coast responders jumped into action that day and he was proud to see them work together effectively and shine so brightly.

“That makes me very proud not only of my crew but of the entire community,” he said. “It’s these dedicated people that help us, a small busy remote station, keep two ambulances 24-7 to ensure the people of Tofino and the West Coast in general are always covered with ambulance services.”

Serving as acting mayor for the event, municipal councillor Ray Thorogood thanked the responders for their service.

“This is a real honour to be bestowed upon the station and to the people in this station,” he said.

“You people are the ones who keep this community going, give us hope and inspiration and your actions on that day, just over a year ago, are unbelievable. It makes me proud to live here in Tofino and call Tofino home.”

The Tony Sunderland award was named after a 41 year-old paramedic who died of a heart attack while responding to a motor vehicle accident in 1988. It was the first reported death of a paramedic on the job in B.C. Sunderland was a beloved member of his Fraser Valley community and the award named after him recognizes those who show the dedication he lived by.

BCAS’ Senior Provincial Executive Director Paul Vallely told the Tofino crew that receiving the Tony Sunderland award is a significant achievement.

“It’s truly an honour to recognize a well deserving crew who have a lot of community pride,” he said.

“This award was created as a tribute to the dedication for service and spirit of excellence that Tony conveyed at all times while serving his community regardless of personal commitments.”