Rescuers helped injured B.C. landslide victims through waist-deep mud, debris

Gabe Rosescu and Sheri Niemegeers were injured when a landslide pushed their vehicle off a B.C. highway

Saskatchewan couple Gabe Rosescu and Sheri Niemegeers survived when a landslide swept their vehicle off the Kootenay mountain pass in B.C. on Thursday. (B.C. Transportation/CBC )

Gabe Rosescu remembers waking up hanging from his seatbelt, groaning and barely able to see.

Before he blacked out, he was travelling down a B.C. highway with his partner, Sheri Niemegeers.

“I just remember the hill, the slide falling, like the side of the mountain falling, trees and this big mud falling,” said Rosescu from a Kelowna hospital bed on Monday.

“I tried to swerve out of the way and couldn’t make it, and then just waking up in the vehicle, windows are all smashed and I’m bleeding.”

Rosescu seriously injured

Rosescu, from Regina, and his partner, Sheri Niemegeers, from Weyburn, Sask., had been driving from Saskatchewan to Nelson, B.C., to visit friends for the long weekend.

But their trip came to an abrupt halt when a wall of mud and trees came crashing down the mountain, sweeping their car off Highway 3 west of Creston.

Highway 3 west of Creston was closed for three days while crews cleaned up after Thursday’s landslide. (B.C. Transportation)

“I remember waking up in the vehicle, piece of skin hanging off of my forehead,” said Rosescu.

Although Rosescu doesn’t remember it, the pair managed to get out of the car and climb back up the slope.

But the mud was waist-deep and Niemegeers had a broken ankle, making it impossible to make it back to the highway.

The well-travelled road is perched on the side of a mountain in the province’s Southern Interior region, which has been ravaged by flooding in recent weeks.

Off-duty firefighter Marty Bowes came across the trees and mud piled high on the road shortly after the slide.

Off-duty firefighter hears calls for help

He and his co-worker were travelling from Castlegar to Cranbrook to fly back to Saskatchewan after a work trip.

Mud was still sliding down toward the highway when they arrived, and they had a brief conversation before deciding it was safe enough to search the debris.

Bowes heard Rosescu calling for help and was shocked when he saw the extent of his injuries.

“I’ve been on the fire department for 20 years now and I’ve never seen an injury as bad as Gabe — it was like something out of a horror movie,” said Bowes.

Other rescuers arrived and were able to help Rosescu back to the highway. They used one of the fallen logs to help Niemegeers “scooch” up the slope without causing further damage to her broken ankle.

Bowes lost track of the couple after they were rushed to hospital by emergency services. He was worried Rosescu might not have survived, so he was relieved when he saw a news story saying the two were recovering in hospital.

Rescuer calls Rosescu in hospital

Bowes found a phone number for Rosescu’s family and called him at the hospital.

“I just said, ‘I’m so thankful you’re alive. I’ve seen a lot of injuries and I didn’t feel very confident you were going to make it,” said Bowes.

Niemegeers has a broken sternum and ankle, while Rosescu suffered bruising of the brain, broken orbital bones, broken nasal bones, broken cheek bones, a fractured jaw and vision damage.

Rosescu said Monday he doesn’t know how he managed to survive the crash, but he thinks someone was looking out for him that day.

“I’ve had a lot of good people pass away so I’m confident that they were part of us being here today.”

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