North Van's unsung heroes
Ever wonder what you’d do if a bank robber hopped into the back of your car?
Cabbie Kuldeep Dosanj can answer that question.
It was crisp January morning back in 2011 that quickly turned unforgettable for the veteran driver.
His gut told him that something wasn’t right about the guy who’d just hurriedly jumped into his taxi.
He was breathing fast and kept saying, “let’s go.”
Dosanj just happened to be the first cab in the queue at the foot of Chesterfield outside the SeaBus that day. The passenger told him to take him to Pacific Centre.
Just as Dosanj was about to click on his fare meter, he looked into his mirror and caught a glimpse of two men in suits in hot pursuit .
This was trouble, he thought.
To stall, Dosanj pretended his electric taxi wouldn’t start by cleverly leaving his foot of the pedal when he pressed the starter button.
Then, he auto-locked the doors so the suspect was trapped inside but the man in the backseat managed to escape.
That’s when Dosanj, along with the two bank employees who had been running down the street, corralled the suspect.
He was a large man, recalls Dosanj.
Dosanj is a polite, average-sized guy but that didn’t stop him.
One of the other Good Samaritans, branch manger Stanley Yee received injuries to his hands during the struggle that ensued. Donsanj, a driver with North Shore Taxi for more than a decade, and bank manager Bardia Pourmalek fortunately weren’t hurt.
During the struggle, Dosanj, who had a Bluetooth device in his ear, managed to call 911 and police arrived quickly. The thief, police say, had allegedly robbed five banks in a span of two weeks.
That night at the family dinner table, Dosanj’s three children were amazed by their father’s tale of foiling a robbery attempt. Apparently the story resonated with them.
Recently, his 19-year-old son, Parmvir, made newspaper headlines and the six o’clock TV news after he thwarted a purse-snatching attempt involving an elderly woman.
“I’m so proud of my son too,” he says.
Recently at a special ceremony at Northlands Golf Course, it was Dosanj’s son’s turn to be proud as his humble father and several other North Vancouver civilians — including Yee and Pourmalek — were recognized by the North Vancouver RCMP for going out of their way to assist police and their fellow citizens.
Sixteen police officers, support staff and 10 members of North Vancouver Crime Prevention Society were also honoured for their exemplary service.
One of the RCMP officers honoured was Const. Jas Dosanjh, who received a commendation for a late-night rescue in February 2011.
That evening Donsanjh responded to a 911 call for a man who’d gotten lost in a forested area near Lynn Canyon. He was wet and hypothermia was setting in.
But before relaying any more details about his whereabouts to the 911 dispatcher, the caller’s cellphone died.
“When I referred to it as a needle in a haystack, that’s what it was,” says Dosanjh.
All he had to go on was a cell tower location, which only gave a rough idea of where to conduct the search, and the fact the caller had mentioned a trail and walking over planks.
Dosanjh along with a dog services member ventured into the forest. “The snow was up to our knees — absolute darkness,” recounts Dosanjh.
Trudging through treacherous terrain, they continued undaunted with Dosanjh calling out the name of the lost man. “I got nothing,” he recalls.
Nearly an hour in, he finally heard a faint sound but couldn’t see anything.
Then, he noticed a small yellow dot about 200 metres away at the bottom of a gully. But there was no way of getting down to the lost man safely.
“This was a vertical,” he explains.
North Shore Rescue was dispatched. But, in the meantime, Dosanjh had to keep the man’s spirits up until he could be safely evacuated.
He’d fallen in water, lost a shoe, and was hypothermic.
He likely wouldn’t have lasted the night.
Despite his dogged rescue efforts, Dosanjh doesn’t easily accept accolades.
“I’m proud to have been recognized for my actions,” he says, adding he’s also a little “perplexed.”
“Each and every member of this organization wouldn’t have acted any differently — this is what we do.”
Since the rescue, Dosanjh has twice bumped into the man whose life he saved.
“He’s grateful and I’m equally grateful that he’s OK.”
Still, Dosanjh figures his actions that night are just part of the job.
“[There’s] an expectation of excellence in regards to every file, whether it’s simple or complex — a high expectation that the best and highest quality of service will be delivered. Anything short of that is unacceptable — to not only the force but to that member.”
As Supt. Chris Kennedy said during the awards ceremony, it’s “comforting to know” there are civilians like Kuldeep Dosanj and police officers like Jas Dosanjh out there.
Along with a congratulations from the superintendent all award recipients received a personalized plaque to commemorate their extraordinary efforts.
Dosanj’s now hangs proudly in his living room.
And there’s no doubt that he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again if he found himself in a similar situation.
Others honoured at the ceremony:
Citizen’s Letter of Recognition
Chloe Luce Labelle; Jacqueline Bonn
Citizen’s Certificate of Commendation
Kuldeep Dosanj; Chris McCormack
Citizen’s Letter of Commendation
Randy Lewis; Ashley Russell-Taylor; Stanley Yee; Bardia Pourmalek
OIC’s Unit Citation
Jo-Anne Brown; Janice Kran; Debbie Upson; Enid Western
Const. Gary Johal; Cpl. Richard De Jong; Cpl. Jane Cameron; Const. Gary Johal; Cpl. Jim McLeod; Cpl. Ross Genge; Sgt. Greg Mainman; Const. Scott Marleau; Cpl. Garry Slater; Const. Steve Johnson; Const. Jas Dosanjh; Const. Nathan Olson; Const. David Townsend
North Vancouver Crime Prevention Society: Gerry Brewer, Alice McSherry, Ken Hopkinson, Allan Sinclair, Sam Thiara, David Blair, Elliott Sutherland, George Wilkinson, Bob Powell and Madeline Bird