PO2 Matthew Compeau saved two people from fire

Navy News / June 13, 2019

By SLt Ciara Murphy

Driving home to Barrie through a winter storm on March 14, 2017 Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) Matthew Compeau’s family vehicle lost traction on black ice, spinning into debris from several tractor trailers that had jackknifed on the road ahead and ignited.

After moving his wife, parents, and two month old daughter to safety on the median, Compeau realized that no one had exited the trucks up the road.

He ran toward the fire.

With a flood of diesel fuel running over his boots, Compeau noticed a driver stuck in her seatbelt struggling to get out of the cab of her truck. Running toward the vehicle, he pulled her out of the cab, and supported her as they walked toward the median.

That’s when his wife, Jenn, called out that someone was on fire and needed help. Spotting a man with his back and arms engulfed in flame, Compeau ran toward him, yelling at him to get down and roll as he approached. Compeau snuffed the fire using the surrounding snow, then, with the help of another driver, dragged the man to safety.

PO2 Compeau, a Boatswain in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve at Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) York in Toronto, credits the training he received over 14 years of dedicated military service with helping him to keep his cool in a hazardous situation.

“We were all in a life or death situation,” he said. “I tried to do my best, and, as a result, I was able to help others.”

Reflecting on his actions that day, PO2 Compeau thinks that his experiences throughout his naval career taught him about persevering through challenges. He emphasizes the need for Naval Reservists to take their training seriously.

“As members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), we are taught to assess quickly and act decisively, and we learn to support each other and our fellow Canadians,” said PO2 Compeau.

“We never know when the training we receive can help save lives.”

The Medal of Bravery, one of Canada’s highest honours, recognizes individuals for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances. Petty Officer Matthew Compeau was awarded the Medal of Bravery by Governor General Julie Payette at a ceremony on June 13.