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

Parking time is to be limited in one spot on 9th. (Houston Today photo)
District seeks grant to update bylaws

And decides on 15-minute parking

Bench installation on 9th Street is another sign the project is nearing completion. (Houston Today photo)
Progress being made on 9th Street finish

District aiming for June completion

File photo
Mental health checks proving valuable

Police officer and nurse team up each week

The two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project arrived in Topley last week with Justin Cradock, owner of Pitbull Trucking Ltd. and the area is now getting prepared for installation. (Dan Simmons photo/Houston Today)
Cow Moose sign project billboards arrive in Topley

Two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project have arrived in Topley… Continue reading

File photo
Snow clearing changes would cost money, survey finds

Council being asked to give direction

(Historica Canada)
VIDEO: Heritage Minute marks 100th anniversary of work to discover insulin

Video centres on Leonard Thompson, 13, the first patient to receive successful injections for Type 1 diabetes

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
‘Obviously, he’s a fighter’: Golden eagle, recovered from poisoning, back in Kootenay wild

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

A fledgling white raven was spotted near the end of Winchester Road in Coombs. (Mike Yip photo)
Legend continues as iconic white raven spotted once again on Vancouver Island

Sightings rare everywhere in world except for central Vancouver Island location

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

A pedestrian wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 is bundled up for the cold weather as snow falls in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, February 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snow possible in mountain passes as cold front hits southern B.C.

Much of B.C.’s southern interior will see temperatures plunge from highs of 30 C reached over the weekend

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)

Most Read