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

Director of the Janda Group, Sonny Janda. (Aldergrove Star files)
COVID-19 stalls Janda Group’s development of proposed Aldergrove Town Centre

A marketing representative said construction will commence when building permits are issued

A person described as a member of the ‘Langley Fundamental Elementary school community’ has tested positive for the coronavirus (undated Google street view image)
COVID-19 case reported at Langley Fundamental Elementary school

Person is self-isolating at home, contact tracing is underway

Aldergrove’s Shirley Sawatsky and her porch witch wish fellow Langleyites a safe and happy Halloween. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Witchy wishes for a safe and happy Halloween

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

It’s no longer 80th Avenue. With the opening the 216th overpass, the road to TWU has been renamed University Drive. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
LETTER: What’s the real motive behind renaming Langley road?

University District erases historic names of several areas

The Village, a secure dementia facility, opened in Brookswood a few years back. It was the subject of a recent COVID outbreak, which was declared over on Oct. 30, 2020. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
COVID outbreaks declared over in Langley care homes

Brookswood and Fort Langley seniors facilities given all clear by B.C.’s top doctor

Under special lights, youngsters such as Lucas, bowled pumpkins to knock over glow in the dark bowling pins at the South Ridge Church Pumpkin Fest. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley church offers families socially distanced drive through autumn fair

Lots of kids dressed in costume for the South Ridge Church Pumpkin Patch Friday evening

This Halloween display by a Maple Ridge family, seen here Oct. 31 in the 23600 block of 119 Avenue, has been the target of social media complaints that it is racially insensitive. (Black Press Media)
Halloween gallows display by B.C. family slammed as racially insensitive by social media critics

Refers to medieval times, not Black lynchings, says man responsible

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Most Read