News

Semi driver saves couple on Kootenay Pass

By Sally MacDonald, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

A truck driver is being called a hero after rescuing a Vancouver couple before Christmas on the Kootenay Pass.

Stephanie Kendal was her way to Cranbrook from Coquitlam with her boyfriend Jeremy Jones to celebrate Christmas with family.

They left home after work on December 22, but their late-night trip took a treacherous turn as they were climbing the Salmo-Creston pass at about 2:30 a.m.

"About halfway through the Salmo-Creston I got scared and thought the roads were slick with black ice. So I pulled over, engaged the four-by-four and started back up the hill, albeit slower," said Stephanie.

"Not even 10 minutes after trying the four-by-four, the truck started losing traction so assuming that the road was too slippery, I stopped and put it in four-by-four low."

But now the truck wasn't moving at all. It was if the automatic truck was a standard — the engine was revving but the truck wouldn't budge.

Jeremy woke up at this point and looked out the window to see transmission fluid flooding the road.

"I was just desperate at this point. I grew up in the Kootenays so I know that you don't want to get stuck in a pass, broken down, at night," said Stephanie.

She stopped the truck. They climbed out and tried to manoeuvre the truck off the road. The plan backfired.

"We got it stuck sideways across all three lanes. I look up and there are the lights of a semi coming around the corner.

"I literally thought we were going to die. I was so scared," said Stephanie.

Luckily, the driver of the semi was a man named Juergen, whose last name Stephanie doesn't know, but she believes he saved their lives that night.

Jeremy was honking the truck's horn, and Stephanie, who is pregnant, was jumping up and down, waving her arms in the air.

Juergen stopped his semi and Stephanie asked him to radio for help. He didn't receive any response.

So Juergen got out of his truck, helped Stephanie and Jeremy move the truck off the road, then offered to give them a ride into Salmo.

"It was really nice. He was really helping us out. We were really stressed and not thinking," said Stephanie.

Once they had cell service, Stephanie tried to find accommodation in Salmo. But everything was closed. Next she tried the RCMP, asking if they could spend the night in jail cells.

But a dispatcher told her that only two RCMP members were available, and only for emergencies.

"I was like, 'You don't consider this an emergency? My vehicle broke down in the pass outside your town, you are the only town between two passes, and you're not going to call one of your emergency cops to put me in the jail for the night?' She was like, 'No, you can go to the next town.'"

But the dire situation was once again saved by Juergen, who offered to give the couple a lift with him to Trail.

Along the way, Jeremy mentioned that they had been bound for Cranbrook. Juergen told them that he was returning to Cranbrook after a quick stop in Trail, and offered to take them with him.

"He gave us a ride all the way into Cranbrook. He calmed us down, he was a godsend and just an amazing person," said Stephanie.

With help from Stephanie's father, the couple retrieved their truck their next day and put the whole disastrous event behind them. But they can't stop feeling grateful for the help they received from a good Samaritan.

"If he hadn't have come along, we would have been in the truck on the Salmo-Creston, trapped," said Stephanie.

"He is such a careful driver. If he hadn't been going the speed he was going, he wouldn't have had time to stop and we would have been hit.

"We're just so incredibly grateful. He's definitely our hero."

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