A Saskatchewan couple is recovering in hospital after a mudslide swept them off a cliff in British Columbia.
Weyburn resident Sheri Niemegeers said she and her boyfriend, Gabe Rosescu, of Regina were nearing their destination of Nelson, B.C. on Thursday, when disaster struck.
“We were driving down the road and we were pretty excited because we weren’t far from where our destination was. And all of a sudden we both were like, holy heck, there’s a tree. And then bang, that’s the last thing I remember,” she said.
The car tumbled down the side of a cliff in a mess of trees, mud and debris.
“The next thing I knew, we were suspended somehow in the trees,” she said.
Rosescu was barely conscious and breathing heavily, she said. Niemegeers convinced him that they had to escape through his window, since “it was straight down,” through hers.
Niemegeers tried to make a call, but there was no reception, she said. They reached a ledge, where she started assessing their injuries — she had a “smashed” ankle, while he was bleeding from his head and face.
Luckily, she remembered to grab her medication for Addison’s disease, which affects her adrenal glands, and took the moment to inject herself.
“Without that I probably wouldn’t have survived because my body can’t handle adrenaline,” she said.
That’s when help arrived.
“All of a sudden we heard a vehicle and heard some voices, so we started screaming for some help,” she said.
“Between that and getting to the top, there’s not much I remember.”
The first person to arrive at the mudslide was Marty Bowes, a firefighter from Saskatchewan who was driving with a colleague.
The pair recognized the danger and stopped traffic one kilometre back from the mudslide, to prevent a pile-up.
“When we were back down the hill, I said to my colleague who was with me, ‘I’d just feel a lot better if we went and had a quick look and made sure nobody was in there,'” Bowes said.
“So we went back up and put on some work clothes and rubber boots and started treading into the mudslide.”
About six metres in, he said, he heard some screaming and shouted back for help.
Bowes said he had to move slowly through the mud, which reached his chest, toward a pile of trees about seven metres high to reach Rosescu.
“I’ve been a firefighter for 20 years and seen a lot of things, but never seen an injury as bad as Gabe’s was, he had a very major critical head wound,” Bowes said.
Worried about the couple, he reached out to the family and was connected with Rosescu by phone.
“I was very relieved yesterday when I heard that he was still alive and doing well,” he said.
Rosescu was airlifted to a Kelowna, B.C., hospital, where his brother-in-law Don Struthers said he is recovering with head injuries, including some bleeding in the brain and a broken orbital bone.
Doctors are waiting until swelling goes down before scheduling a surgery, he said.
“I guess they are cautiously optimistic that things will keep improving,” Struthers said.
Niemegeers was taken to a hospital in Trail, B.C., and is being treated for a broken sternum and ankle, he said.
Struthers said Rosescu is a sales rep and Niemegeers works for an oil-field company in northern Saskatchewan.
Niemegeers said the accident happened on their six-month anniversary.
She has spoken with Rosescu and said he is OK.
“Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that we made it through,” she said. “It’s hard to believe we’re alive today and that our injuries aren’t worse than what they could be. It was just unbelievable.”