It was a massive rescue operation that took all day. A truck driver, who was hanging upside-down inside the crushed cab of his semi truck for two days, was finally pulled from the wreckage Thursday.
“It just was an amazing collaboration,” said Jamie Davis of Jamie Davis Towing, about the multi-agency effort he witnessed in Manning Park on Highway 3. On-scene for about 10 hours, the local towing company helped by stabilizing the damaged truck so the rescue workers were kept safe below the crash site.
The tricky extrication manoeuvre was unlike any Davis had seen in his lengthy career.
“The driver was trapped with his legs folded up under the dash,” said Davis.
The semi had crashed down more than 300 metres of a steep embankment in an area known as the Rhododendron Flats in Manning Park.
“I’ve been to lots of rescues my whole life; this one had a happy outcome,” said Davis. “You couldn’t wish for any finer people to help at a crash scene like this. These were some of the best trained and most experienced at what they do. There was a lot of great talent involved.”
What impressed him were the three aspects of the extrication that were at play at once, Davis said. One team was cutting away at the dash with a reciprocating saw and the Jaws of Life. Another had SAR members stabilizing the driver and preparing him for stretcher transport.
The third was the mechanic from Silver Skagit Mechanical, who worked to remove the transmission entirely from the mangled truck in order to free the driver.
The towing company owner was blown away by the inventiveness of pulling out the transmission through the floor of the cab.
“Because of that, that driver is going back to his family.”
Davis also praised the tenacity of Hope SAR leaders who “persevered through the night” to locate the driver in the first place, by pinging the GPS signal off his phone repeatedly.
“The hole that the driver went down into was so deep, it completely hid the tractor trailer from view. He’s lucky for GPS — or he may not have been found for days.”
The truck had been stuck down the embankment 48 hours.
“When Search and Rescue finally arrived and saw the truck, they whistled down to the driver, and he whistled back,” Davis recounted.
That triggered the rescue operation with the help of more than 20 people who worked to remove the injured driver from the mangled truck, and get him immediate medical attention.
The driver was reported missing on Feb. 28, but a search by RCMP and Hope Search and Rescue had yielded no sign of him after patrols and inquiries along the route.
Just before 10:30 am on March 2, a semi-truck matching the description of the one being sought was spotted off Highway 3 was spotted.
Hope SAR were assisted by Chilliwack Search and Rescue members, who helped out with their rope systems expertise, with BC Ambulance Service, and RCMP.
“This was a very challenging rescue operation, and the RCMP wishes to express its appreciation for all those who participated to help extricate the driver and bring him to safety,” says Constable Melissa Wutke, spokesperson for BC RCMP Traffic Services.
Fraser Valley Traffic RCMP along with the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement unit are investigating the cause.
The driver remains in hospital with life-threatening injuries, said RCMP.