By Keith Lacey
A leisurely Sunday morning stroll by a volunteer with the Anarchist Mountain Fire Department (AMFD) and his wife and dog ended up saving the life of a Trail man who spent 16 hours trapped near his vehicle after it rolled down a 50-foot embankment and landed on its roof after veering off Highway 3.
Stefan Beckman and his wife Suzie, who were accompanied by their three-year-old Springer Spaniel named Hedley, often go for long walks and hikes near their Anarchist Mountain home.
Around noon on Sunday, the Beckmans and Hedley decided to go for a walk near Blacktail Road.
Within seconds of leaving their vehicle to begin a scheduled two-hour hike, Hedley started acting strangely, said Stefan.
“We often go for long walks or hikes,” he said. “We parked our vehicle about 100 metres from the highway and as soon as we opened the door, Hedley jumped out and immediately ran back towards the highway, which was the opposite way of where we wanted to begin our hike.”
After Hedley stopped barking, Stefan said he and his wife both heard faint sounds from a distance.
“At first we thought it might be a wounded animal,” he said. “It was very faint and we couldn’t make out the sound, but we listened again and thought it sounded like someone asking for help. We listened closer … and it was clearly someone crying out for help.”
Suzie turned her attention to the side of the highway and noticed a bright red image coming from the bushes and upon closer inspection, realized it was a vehicle that landed upside down with its four wheels in the air.
“Something looked out of place … and we inched down the embankment and I said, Holy Cow, there’s a car down there,” she said.
As a volunteer firefighter who was on call for the weekend, Stefan was fortunate enough to be carrying his AMFD-issued radio and quickly called for backup.
“I called the duty officer (Ajai Sehgal) and told them there was a vehicle on its roof with potential serious injuries,” said Stefan.
Stefan, Suzie and Hedley made their way through the heavy brush towards the man in his vehicle to assure him help was on the way.
The man, who they believe to be in his 60s, told them he was travelling to Trail and believes he fell asleep at the wheel.
He also told them the incident happened around 8 p.m. Saturday night, meaning he had been laying outside the vehicle with serious injuries for close to 16 hours.
“I asked him about any injuries and he was verbal and told me how one of his arms had been trapped under the vehicle and he was in pain,” said Stefan. “He told me he had spent the night laying there outside his vehicle.”
Within a couple of minutes, the AMFD first responder truck, which is loaded with equipment and first aid materials, arrived and several volunteers with AMFD followed shortly thereafter, he said.
An ambulance arrived “very quickly … in about 25 minutes” and they checked the man’s vital signs and used a stretcher and spine board to load him into the ambulance to bring him to hospital.
Ambulance attendants were very confident “he was going to be all right,” said Stefan.
It was very fortunate Mother Nature cooperated as well because it didn’t get much below zero Saturday evening and Sunday morning was sunny, bright and warm, he said.
Stefan said he and his wife believe fate certainly played a big role in this incident.
“That’s the way we are looking at it,” he said. “What are the odds of us parking where we did and having our dog sense something was wrong within seconds?
“If our dog hadn’t ran towards the highway and went the other way, we may never have heard the cries for help and who knows what might have happened. We’re very fortunate things turned out the way they did.”
Their dog certainly played a key role in the rescue, he said.
“Hedley is definitely some kind of hero,” he said. “He loves being outside and foraging and grousing and he just did what came naturally and thankfully it led us towards the vehicle.”
Stefan estimates the vehicle crashed through several trees and bounced 40 to 50 metres before landing on its roof.
“The man is definitely blessed to have not suffered more injuries than he did,” he said.
“We’re just very lucky Stefan and his wife and dog decided to go out for that walk or we almost assuredly would have been looking at a recovery rather than a rescue,” he said.
The reality is Highway 3 is a very steep and winding road and this leads to a number of serious accidents and incidents every year, said Sehgal, who has been a volunteer with AMFD for 14 years.
“Unfortunately, this is a very windy and difficult road and if you don’t pay attention or drive too fast, you can easily veer off the road in a hurry,” he said.
In July, another B.C. man spent two days trapped in his vehicle after it veered off the road on Highway 3 just before the Anarchist lookout.
“If you veer off the highway at many points, you’re completely invisible,” said Sehgal.