The Survival and Patience of Job — Part III

On May 29, 1978, Ultramar fuel distributor Job Goudie from Springdale, Newfoundland was filling the gas tanks of a vessel in nearby Little Bay when an explosion occurred. The vessel owner, Rollie Weir, along with crewman, Ralph King, died in the inferno, but Job was blown overboard from the deck of the vessel and survived. He was badly burnt, with multiple bones broken along with many fractures, but thanks to the quick action of Bert and Leonard Dobbin from Little Bay, Job survived. This is part three of The Survival and Patience of Job

 

As the Dobbin brothers were preparing to install a television antenna on the roof of Bert’s house, they were aware that the Notre Dame had docked and that Job Goudie was fueling the vessel’s storage tanks with gasoline from his oil truck.

It was a regular event that they had witnessed many times before. In fact, Bert was one of Job’s customers and the two had talked several times, usually when Job was filling Bert’s oil tank with home heating fuel.

Running toward the beach to get a closer look at what had gone wrong, Bert and Leonard couldn’t see the wharf or the Notre Dame through the thick black smoke at first, but as they neared the water’s edge, they again heard a man’s voice calling out for help.

Arriving at the beach, Bert recognized the voice as that of Job and when the smoke lifted a little, he could see Job clinging to a piece of debris from the burning vessel.

Bert instantly knew that Job’s survival depended on him and Leonard because there was no one else around. That’s when another in the series of miraculous events that culminated in Job’s rescue occurred.

The brothers noticed an overturned punt (rowboat) that was hauled up on the beach nearby. Bert, age 23 and Leonard, 19, were in good physical condition and grabbed the boat, up-righted it and quickly brought it to the water. Bert jumped in the punt, but there were no oars to row the boat, so Leonard held on to the painter and pushed the punt as hard as he could to propel it away from the beach toward Job.

Bert Dobbin sits in his living room at home in Little Bay, Newfoundland

The maneuver worked well, as if the brothers had rehearsed it a dozen times. Fortunately, with Leonard’s super-hard push, the boat made it all the way out to where Job was struggling to keep his head above water.

Also fortunate was the fact the punt had an extra long painter and Leonard was still able to hold on to the rope, although he had to wade out in the water to allow the boat get close enough to Job so Bert could reach him.

As he drew closer, Bert could tell that Job was barely conscious. At the time, he had no way of knowing the extent of Job’s injuries, but he knew that coming out of the middle of a massive explosion, it would be pointless to try and get Job over the side of the punt because he would probably do more harm than good.

So, he did the only thing he could, he leaned over the stern of the punt as far as he could and managed to get Job facing directly in front of him. Bert then hooked his arms underneath Job’s arms and pulling Job close towards him, he shouted at Leonard to start pulling the punt in to the beach.

It wasn’t a delicate or fancy way to do it, but it worked.

Leonard Dobbin

As Leonard pulled the boat, Bert dragged Job through the water until they reached shore. Leonard pulled the boat as tightly to the rocks as he could and then gave his brother a hand in getting Job from the ocean, hauling him to a place on the beach where he could be as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

Even though nearly 40 years has passed since the accident, this is the stage of the story where Bert Dobbin still becomes emotional, when he recounts the remainder of the rescue.

“It must have been really terrible for Job,” Bert says, his voice shaking.

“We couldn’t carry him because he was in real bad shape with severe burns and all broke up from the waist down and everything, so we couldn’t… all we could do was drag the poor man across the beach and rocks with nothing but his belt on his body,” Bert says, adding there was no pretty way to do what was necessary to save Job’s life.

The Dobbins covered Job as people started to gather on the beach. Someone ran and got blankets to try and keep him from suffering hypothermia after spending several minutes in the icy waters of Little Bay. Someone else called an ambulance.

Surprisingly, Job was still aware of what was going on while Bert and Leonard tried to keep him comfortable.

“I’ll never forget the last words he said to me before he lost consciousness,” Bert says, his voice faltering again.

“I leaned down and he said ‘Bert, if I don’t make it, tell Sylvia I love her.’”

Moments later, Job lapsed into unconsciousness.

Bert and Leonard Dobbin were the right men, in the right place, at the right time for Job Goudie on Monday morning, May 29, 1978.

Without their clear thinking and skills to get Job out of the ocean as quickly as they did, Job would have undoubtedly died trying to cling to a piece of charred wood in Little Bay harbour.

All those years later, Bert has to wrestle with his emotions whenever someone asks about the accident and his role in saving Job’s life. He and Job have remained friends and still talk about the incident occasionally.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, an ambulance arrived and took Job to the Springdale hospital where doctors assessed his severe burns and his battered and broken body. They immediately realized that Job needed medical treatment and care that required special equipment, along with specialized doctors and medical staff.

“Basically, the only thing they could do for me in Springdale was clean me up and prepare me to be airlifted to St. John’s,” Job says.

Arrangements were made with the owner-operator of a floatplane from nearby King’s Point to fly Job to the General Hospital (Health Sciences Centre).

After getting Job onboard the plane from an ambulance on the shores of Davis Pond, Springdale, the aircraft landed at Paddy’s Pond just a few kilometres west of the city where another ambulance was waiting.

Job doesn’t know much about the flight. In fact, he was barely aware of anything that was going on after the Dobbin men hauled him to the beach. His next clear recollection of events didn’t begin until he was in hospital in St. John’s.

Job spent seven months in hospital undergoing numerous procedures to deal with his burns and other injuries.

It is probably fair to say that he never totally recovered because, among other things, doctors were forced to amputate his left leg later and for many years, right up to present day, he often suffers severe pain and discomfort.

But despite it all, Job, who was once described by one of his doctors as a man with a lion’s heart, never gave up fighting for a better life for himself, his wife Sylvia and their eight sons. Among his many accomplishments after the accident, he earned two university degrees and became a teacher.

We will tell you about that part Job’s journey next month in Part IV of The Survival and Patience of Job.

 

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