Cyril Ozeroff: One of JIBC’s first graduates recalls saving a life

Cyril Ozeroff

It had been an otherwise very normal sunny afternoon that day in June 2011.

Cyril Ozeroff, one of the first graduates of the Justice Institute of British Columbia’s (JIBC) probation officer program, was wearing his other hat at the time, as a JIBC-trained volunteer firefighter with the Robson Volunteer Fire Department, just outside of Castlegar, BC.

The call came in as a cardiac arrest. The patient was a 21-year-old man. He had been found by his mother, unresponsive with no vital signs, on the front lawn of their home.

Upon arrival, Ozeroff and four other members of his fire crew started CPR immediately, and continued when paramedics arrived, and as he joined them on the rush to the nearest hospital emergency room.

“We realized when we arrived on scene that he must have had a history of heart problems because he had a long scar on his chest.”

Ozeroff recalled the CPR continued for close to an hour.

“I remember feeling his life come back … I was right beside him holding on to his hand when he came back.”

Even now, more than six years later, he still gets emotional thinking about it. Over the years he has also managed to keep tabs on their patient from that day, who eventually was transferred to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver where he spent three weeks in intensive care. Today, the man continues to live in the Castlegar area.

Helping to make a difference is something Ozeroff has always sought to do throughout his career, both on a professional and volunteer basis. He had just completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree before he first attended JIBC in 1979 to train as a probation officer. Now 63 and semi-retired, he said his 39 years of working with adult offenders were rewarding ones. He noted the job has a dual role, both as an officer of the court and as an agent of change to try to address the factors that contributed to the offending to help keep them out of further trouble.    

In 25 years as a volunteer firefighter, Ozeroff served as a training officer, and a captain before retiring as deputy fire chief. Throughout, JIBC played a major part as a source of training. “I always saw it as one of the leaders in the world in terms of the kind of training it provides.”

While now retired, he continues to give back, serving as a facilitator and coordinator for the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Critical Incident Stress Management program, which assists firefighters and other emergency responders after stressful or traumatic on-the-job incidents.

As for the 2011 rescue, Ozeroff was happy to see the man again when he and his family visited the Robson fire hall upon his release from hospital. They were there to thank Ozeroff and the other first responders who came to his aid that day and to assist in the presentation of life-saving medals by the regional fire chief. In 2012, Ozeroff was recognized with The JIBC Foundation’s Heroes & Rescue Award for his role in saving the man’s life, an honour he said was totally unexpected.

“We go in with all that we have and we hope we can make a difference and it’s nice when we realize that we can.”

Last updated January 12, 2019