Vince Leroux catches a ride with Williams Lake logger Ryan Tugnum early Thursday morning back to the Barkerville-Likely Road where he was stranded for three days. Angie Mindus photo

Vince Leroux catches a ride with Williams Lake logger Ryan Tugnum early Thursday morning back to the Barkerville-Likely Road where he was stranded for three days. Angie Mindus photo

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

After spending two sleepless nights stuck on a forest service road in the rugged mountains east of Williams Lake, a Campbell River long haul truck driver is very grateful he was rescued by loggers and police.

Vince Leroux, 53, was so convinced he wasn’t going to make it off the snowy, remote Barkerville-Likely Road alive that he recorded his last will and testament on his cell phone as well as wrote a few final words to his daughter and two grandchildren, telling them he loved them.

“I prepared goodbye notes on video on my phone,” Leroux said from a Williams Lake motel Wednesday.

“I also wrote a note on a piece of paper and attached it to my phone with an elastic band that said ‘if you find my body make sure this phone gets to my daughter.’”

Long haul truck driver Vince Leroux was stranded for three days on the Barkerville-Likely Road, shown on the map in purple. Leroux was headed through the Interior to Chetwynd when he attempted to take the remote detour to evade the CVSE weigh stations because he was at his maximum hours. Map courtesy of the Cariboo Regional District

Leroux’s journey began Saturday night when he left Abbotsford with his Freightliner headed for the north.

While travelling through the Interior Sunday morning, the 20-year veteran truck driver made the fateful decision to bypass a section of Highway 97 by turning east to the small logging community of Likely, and then north onto the seasonal forest service road, the 8400 Road, to Barkerville.

READ MORE: Residents and loggers rescue log truck driver injured in crash

Leroux said he had been on mountain roads before and thought he could make it.

“That was my big mistake.”

Leroux managed to get about 40 kilometres down the road before he ran into trouble.

“It was Sunday that I got stuck on top of the mountain. I actually left the B-trains halfway up. I suffered chest pains so I unhooked my B-trains and I thought ‘I have to get to the hospital.’ But I couldn’t get back around my [trailers] so I just drove straight which was a mistake because I drove 80 kilometres and ended up sliding off the road where if I would have went any more forward or backwards I would have went over an embankment and down to a lake so I stopped there.”

READ MORE: Loaded logging truck plunges down steep embankment

Leroux said more than a foot of snow fell that first night near Maeford Lake and he even encountered wildlife, which initially he had mistaken for someone’s pet and that he was getting rescued.

“Then I realized ‘wait, that’s not a dog that’s a wolf’.”

It was after that experience that Leroux realized just how alone and in trouble he really was, and the deep pain of regret over his decision and predicament started to seep in.

Leroux thought about his daughter, and the two young grandchildren he feared he wouldn’t see again. He drafted letters to them and also made the videos of his last wishes.

Though he didn’t even have a lighter, Leroux did think of ways to prolong his survival.

On Monday he gathered all the plastic in his truck and lit it on fire with an electrical spark in hopes someone might see the black smoke.

When that didn’t work he calculated he had about a week’s worth of diesel if he used it sparingly, so he would start the truck every few hours to warm up the cab which became a survival shelter for him.

“It has a sleeper but I didn’t do much sleeping. I did a lot of panicking. I was just praying someone would come along.”

Leroux also collected his water bottles and divided up the few protein bars he had in his truck to last several days. He even found a small bag of dog food he carried for his dog, who wasn’t with him on the trip.

Ryan Tugnum of Williams Lake and his company are helping the stranded trucker retrieve his truck and trailers after he was struck for three days on a remote mountain pass east of Williams Lake and rescued by the RCMP and Conservation Officer Service. Angie Mindus photo

“I was saving that for last. I’m a pretty big guy so I knew I could live off my reserves for a while,” he joked. “It was a different experience for sure.”

Meanwhile, while Leroux was holding out hope on the mountain, his boss was calling the RCMP to report him missing with his last known location, according to GPS, at Likely.

Also unbeknownst to him a local logging crew in the area had discovered his trailers in the middle of the road and started looking for their own answers, taking pictures of the trailers and posting them to social media.

At 1:57 p.m. Monday Ryan Tugnum posted photos of Leroux’s trailers on Facebook and contacted the police with the licence plate number.

Leroux said he was inside his truck at about 4 p.m. Tuesday after three long days of being stranded, when he saw the lights and then what he describes as the “beautiful faces” of two RCMP officers, Const. Gallagher, Const. Grewal and CO Jared Connatty, who rescued the thankful trucker near Maeford Lake down the 8400 Road.

“That’s the first time in my life I ever hugged an RCMP officer,” Leroux said of the moment he was rescued. “When I was young I used to cause the police a lot of grief. I look at them in a different light now, and I just appreciate them very much.”

On Wednesday, Leroux began looking for maps to see where he had been, and contacted the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association where he spoke with Geoff Moore.

Moore was listening to Leroux, and having seen Tugnum’s post about the trailer, put two and two together.

RCMP Const. Gallagher, RCMP Const. Grewal and CO Jared Connatty are heroes, according to stranded trucker Vince Leroux, who snapped the photo during his rescue on a remote road east of Williams Lake. Photo submitted

“I was like, ‘wait a second,’ I gotta help this guy,” said Moore.

Moore told Leroux about the role Tugnum played in his rescue and gave information to connect the two.

Leroux was speechless and his boss in Abbotsford was brought to tears when Tugnum told them they would take Leroux back to the truck Thursday and retrieve the truck and trailers using their logging equipment.

But, he said, he always knew there were “good people in Williams Lake.”

“It’s a great story,” said Moore. “People make mistakes. This is more of a cautionary tale of why you need communication in the backcountry. It’s also a great story about community. People not only cared enough to ask to questions when they saw the trailers, they also are sticking around to help him out.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Coal Creek and forested land near Fernie, B.C. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Elk Valley Regional Land Trust inks deal with Community Foundation of Kootenay Rockies

Donations to the trusts project to secure forested land in the Elk Valley can now be made through the CFKR

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Students from EIDES in Fernie with a cheque for $500 from the East Kootenay Community Credit Union (EKC). (Image courtesy of EKC)
East Kootenay students get outdoors to learn

A donation from the EKC allowed schools in the region to buy outdoor learning kits

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read