Camping trip turns into river rescue

A camping trip quickly became a rescue mission for a group up the Gray Creek Pass.

A camping trip quickly became a rescue mission for a group up the Gray Creek Pass.

The group of five Cranbrook friends were cutting wood near their camp, when a man came running up the road. They were Mike Krahn, Randy Sluz, Kris Peltzer, Ken Kiever and Shaun Beier.

“We were about two kilometres up the Gray Creek Pass where you come off the St. Mary’s road,” Krahn said. “We were cutting up some wood and when we shut our saws off, we could hear somebody screaming ‘help’.”

The frantic man and his three vehicle passengers had driven across Redding Creek earlier but got stuck in the middle of the raging creek on the way back. The man had managed to swim, fighting the current, to the bank then ran about a couple of kilometres to get to the campsite.

So the group hopped into their side-by-sides with the man and he led them up the road about nine kilometres and then down an old skidder trail that takes you to Redding Creek.

Krahn said he’d been down the trail before and so was not expecting things to be good.

“We get down there and we can see where the alders open up to the river and sure enough there’s a pickup sitting about 40 feet into the water, halfway across the river,” he said.

The truck was facing them and leaning hard downriver, being pushed by the strong current. Water was flowing over the hood. On top of the truck were the three other passengers, who said they could feel the truck shifting back and forth from the water’s force.

The group anchored the side-by-sides near the water and used a winch line.

“I grabbed the hooked end and walked out into the water along the edge of the bank, up to just below my chest,” Krahn said. “We grabbed a harness and hooked it just below the winch cable and tossed it to the people and had them wrap it around their chest and one by one, we pulled them in.”

Krahn caught each person as they were pulled in and also pulled downstream. The water, which the three people had been sitting in for three and a half hours, was very cold.

“I was in that water altogether for 10 to 15 minutes and I couldn’t feel anything below my waist,” he said.

After the three had been rescued, they took them back to camp, got them dry clothes and warmed up, then one of the campers drove them back to town.

“When we went back there the next day, (the truck) had moved about three feet. It didn’t have far to go to flip over because there was a big hole,” Krahn said.

The truck was later pulled out, he said.

Krahn said the gravity of the situation didn’t hit them until later that night after the rescue, when they were back at camp.

The man who ran from the rescue site had tried to get to the winch on his truck and was swept over the hood and downstream, somehow managing to make the bank. Krahn noted the man had bruises and cuts from the rocks and logs in the stream.

“He was very lucky that he didn’t get sucked down,” Krahn said.

Krahn said everyone was just happy that they all made it out alive.