Saanich resident Michael Gallup is being considered a hero by police for his part in saving the life of Saanich’s Ladislav Cumpelik on Thursday.
Cumpelik, a 37-year-old Saanich Parks employee, was cycling from his home on Goward Road along West Saanich Road at about 6:40 a.m. when he had a life-threatening encounter with a semi-trailer that left Cumpelik hanging to the undercarriage for 473 metres.
Cumpelik underwent surgery for a broken bone in his shoulder following the incident, one of a series of injuries he sustained including serious road rash and cracked ribs. He was otherwise conscious and happy to be alive in Victoria General Hospital.
“I saw the truck slowing but I didn’t know what he was doing,” said Cumpelik. “Once he started making the turn, his tractor was going right, I tried to avoid it but ended up sliding ass over kettle under the tractor trailer.”
As a former Saanich garbage man Cumpelik immediately recognized the undercarriage of the tractor from his time performing maintenance on the garbage trucks.
“I didn’t have enough speed to go right through to the other side of the tractor so that’s when I grabbed the air brake [line]. In my head, mathematically, I was thinking what would hit me if I let go, what would I have to avoid.”
Gallup was one car back of the semi-trailer on the hilly descent between the Beaver Lake Road turnoff and Markham Road. He was forced to slow when the truck signalled a right turn onto Markham.
That’s when Gallup, and the driver one car ahead, saw Cumpelik travel past at about 50 km/h towards the turning trailer.
Having seen Cumpelik fly off his bike and slide underneath the truck, Gallup pulled around the truck to see if the cyclist came out the other side. Gallup then quickly chased the truck and pulled up alongside the driver.
“I wasn’t sure the fellow was under the truck, as I honked and waved at the driver I could hear [Cumpelik] hooting and hollering, screaming and yelling,” Gallup said. “But I couldn’t see him.”
The two drivers jumped out, with Gallup calling 911 and the truck driver attending to Cumpelik.
“It was pretty intense, eyes were big, hearts were pumping, I wasn’t sure what shape he was in,” Gallup said. “It looked absolutely terrible so I expected the worst even though I could hear him.”
“I often notice flowers on the road just up from there for another Saanich cyclist who died last year,” said Markyta Cumpelik, Ladislav’s mom. “But some greater power saved him.”
Gallup is just happy everything worked out.
“If he’s interested I’d be happy to meet up with him and share a pint,” Gallup said.
“I’ll probably buy him the beer,” said Ladislav from his pre-operating bed at VGH. “I’m so thankful for [Gallup] to even think about stopping the driver, it’s unbelievable.”