By Joni MacFarlane
Editor, Crowsnest Pass Promoter
After walking more than 15 km in unforgiving cold and deep snow, a senior died while trying to get help for his stranded wife and friend.
It is believed he was overcome by the elements as he walked along a lonely forestry road about 7 km north on Kananaskis Road, RCMP Sgt. Keith Bott said.
Franklyn Kuehn, 71, of Granum, was found by two local firefighters out on a snowmobile at about 10:30 a.m. Monday. Kuehn had ventured out for a drive with Lynn, his 69-year-old wife, and friend Lorraine Berreth, 66, when they veered off the main road and their vehicle became stuck in the snow.
Soon after RCMP had a call about overdue travelers from Fort Macleod.
They quickly launched a search for the man’s wife and a friend, finding they too had followed in his footsteps and struck out into the cold looking for help.
Like the man, who was only dressed in a light jacket and shoes, the women were ill-prepared for the conditions.
“They only got about 5 km before we found them,” said Bott, adding snow was as deep as 90 cm along the path the women were walking. “There is no way they would have survived, they were not wearing clothing for the (conditions).”
Bott, who was among search crews out on snowmobiles, said he had the heartbreaking task of informing the woman her husband hadn’t survived his bid to go get help.
“It’s something you have to get out of the way immediately,” said the 24-year RCMP veteran. “It never gets easy, you just do it.”
The senior, who had a new hip and a new knee, managed to hike for what Bott estimated to be six to seven hours, some of it in the dark, before he collapsed.
“This fellow did really, really well,” he said. “We did our best to console (his wife).”
The man headed out about 3 p.m. on Sunday. The women stayed in the SUV overnight and went looking for help the next morning.
“It’s a beautiful drive in the summer,” Bott said. “But they don’t maintain it at all in the winter.”