On Sept. 20, 2006 Constable Nicole Silbernagel had no idea she would be diving into the icy, murky waters of Howe Sound at Porteau Cove.
But, that's exactly what the young RCMP officer did when she got the call in her nearby cruiser that a vehicle had driven off the boat launch and was submerged roughly 25 metres from shore.
Upon arrival she called the Coast Guard and then removed her duty belt and body armour and swam out to where she last saw the air bubbles reaching the surface.
"She was right there, took her gun belt off and jumped in," said Corporal Dave Ritchie of his former colleague at the Squamish RCMP detachment.
This week, Constable Silbernagel, who is no longer with the Squamish detachment and who was unavailable for comment, received an award for meritorious service given to RCMP and municipal police officers that have performed an exemplary service to the citizens of B.C. The provincial honour, complete with silver pin, is in recognition of acting in a manner significantly beyond the standard normally expected.
After reaching the spot where the car disappeared, Silbernagel realized that the water was too deep and murky. The car was no longer visible. She swam back to shore where she helped coordinate rescue efforts with recreational divers.
Two divers freed the driver from the car and got him to shore but he succumbed to his injuries three days later.
"We don't know why he ended up in the water," explained Ritchie of the three-year-old file.
Silbernagel was with the Squamish RCMP detachment for more than five years after her initial police training. She transferred to a detachment in the Lower Mainland about nine months ago.
Ritchie said of his colleague: "She did what she could."
Silbernagel was also recognized by the RCMP with a Commanding Officer's Commendation in October, which is the highest award that can be issued by the Commanding Officer of the British Columbia RCMP.
The press release states: "Constable Silbernagel's courage in attempting to save the life of a drowning victim brings credit to herself and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."