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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Organizers of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival have decided to end the event after more than 20 years. / Bob Friesen File Photo
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival cancelled – for good

Organizers say the event was so popular that too many people were attending to be sustainable

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Mark Strahl is speaking in the House of Commons on Oct. 20, 2020, on a Conservative motion to create a special committee to look into the WE charity scandal. The speech will be posted live on his Facebook page. (Facebook image)
VIDEO: Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl to speak on WE scandal today

Prime Minister has said Conservative motion for ethics committee could trigger election

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Rosedale man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after purchasing electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

Advance polls are now open for the 2020 B.C. election, including the Hope Legion hall. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
A round-up of Fraser-Nicola election coverage

Undecided voters will find candidate bios, stories on the local race and party platforms

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of UBC geoscientists discovered the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Officers with the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team were at a White Rock home Tuesday (Oct. 20) to assist Vancouver Police Department with execution of a search warrant. (Contributed photo)
ERT, VPD response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read