6. Similar Cases

Like Purdon and Palleja, Houston KHOU reporter Brandi Smith had to navigate a situation about whether to intervene in a story and call the authorities.

Smith was in the middle of a live television hit chronicling the city’s flooding following Hurricane Harvey when she came across a partially submerged tractor trailer. Smith, standing on a bridge, narrated the scene while the camera focused on the roadway-turned-river below, where a man was stuck inside. She asked him if he could get to the top of his vehicle, but he said he could not.

For Smith, there was no question about calling the authorities. She noticed a Harris County Sheriff’s car towing a small boat and flagged the vehicle down immediately. “There’s a truck driver stuck in about 10 feet of water,” Smith said to the emergency crew, pointing to the underpass. While the crew worked on making their way to the man, Smith told him that there was a boat on the way and instructed him to stay inside. Meanwhile, Smith, still live on air, turned to the camera and told viewers that a year ago, a similar situation happened where a tractor trailer on the same road became submerged in water. In that case, the man died.

The emergency crew managed to rescue the man and brought him onto land. Smith immediately went over to the man and asked him how he felt. “Wonderful,” he responded. “I thank God that you guys were right here to get me [and] put me back on land safely,” he said. After the incident, Smith was interviewed on-camera by KHOU. “I couldn’t walk away knowing there was someone in that truck,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have lived with any other outcome.”

Unlike Smith, who could see the water gradually rising inside the tractor trailer, Purdon and Palleja did not know how much longer Mohamed would be able to withstand the frigid temperatures. By stopping along the border and waking Mohamed up, Purdon and Palleja had already intervened. Now they had to decide what to do with Mohamed. The CBC journalists both agreed that Mohamed was in physical distress, but he was responsive and was not asking for medical assistance. They had a decision to make. Should they leave and allow Mohamed to continue on his own, or should they phone the RCMP, which would mean intervening in the story?

Next: 7. Epilouge