I SURVIVED
Reader's Digest Canada|November 2021
WHEN FACED WITH CERTAIN DEATH, IT TAKES BRAVERY, DETERMINATION—AND PLENTY OF LUCK. THE STORIES OF FOUR PEOPLE WHO LIVED TO TELL.
Emily Landau

I SURVIVED A MUDSLIDE

SHERI NIEMEGEERS, 47, AN INVESTMENT ADMINISTRATOR

It was the Victoria Day long weekend in 2018 and my partner, Gabe Rosescu, and I were taking a road trip in his little Hyundai Elantra from my home in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, to visit friends in Nelson, B.C. We are both adventurous, and we couldn’t wait to go hiking and exploring. It was our first trip together, after six months of dating.

At around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, we were driving about 18 kilometres west of Creston, B.C., on a steep mountain road known as the Crowsnest Highway. I was texting updates to my family and enjoying the view. We weren’t aware there’d recently been flooding in the area. When I looked up from my phone, I saw a wave of mud and an enormous tree barrelling down the mountain, right in front of the car. Gabe tried to brake, but it was too late.

I looked at Gabe and we both said, “Oh, shoot”—understatement of the century. The mudslide sent our car plummeting nearly 300 metres down a rocky cliff. It landed on its side in a group of trees.

I don’t know how long we were unconscious, but I woke up to the sound of Gabe moaning. He was slumped over the steering wheel, and there was blood everywhere. Outside my passenger window there was a steep drop. Every time I moved, I was hit with excruciating chest pain. I had broken my sternum, and my right ankle was smashed and practically turned backward. Gabe, meanwhile, had broken his orbital bone, nasal and cheekbones. Parts of his skull were crushed and his vision was damaged. But the body is an amazing thing, and somehow we were both able to crawl out of that wreckage.

I was so focused on our survival that I didn’t register the wrecked state of the car or where we were. We had no phone signal, so all we could think to do was yell for help. But my chest hurt too much to even breathe. So Gabe started shouting as loud as he could.

We were shocked when, after just a few minutes, we heard someone call back. Four bystanders had spotted us and waded through waist-deep mud to our rescue. I couldn’t walk, so the men took turns shimmying me up the rock face and helping Gabe make his way up to the road. Gabe was in shock, slipping in and out of consciousness, and I honestly didn’t think he was going to make it. When the EMTs finally got to us, they let us kiss goodbye from our stretchers as they loaded us into separate ambulances. I was swearing a lot as they took us away—I didn’t think I’d ever see my boyfriend again.

They took me to the closest hospital, in Trail, B.C., and Gabe was airlifted to the trauma hospital in Kelowna. All along the way, they kept shocking him to keep him awake. I was in the hospital for a week and a half, but they kept Gabe for six weeks. My surgeon had to reconnect the main artery in my foot, and Gabe’s had to split open his scalp three ways to reattach everything. Even after surgery, I’ll walk with a limp for the rest of my life, and Gabe permanently lost his vision in his left eye.

Before this all happened, we were happy-go-lucky people. We’re even more positive now. We look at everything differently. Even with the injuries we sustained, we’re grateful that we’re still living a pretty good life. The experience also bonded us as a couple. We even still go on road trips. A year after the accident, we drove back to the Crowsnest Highway and gave the finger to the mudslide.

As told to Emily Landau

I SURVIVED FALLING OFF A MOUNTAIN

GURBAZ SINGH, 18, A STUDENT

When I was 13 I climbed my first mountain—a fairly gentle 1,200-metre peak near where I live in Surrey, B.C. I loved the challenge of conquering something bigger than myself. Soon I’d climbed nearly 100 peaks. My parents were happy that I found a hobby.

I often go climbing with my friend Mel Olsen, whom I met in a Facebook group. Three years ago, on December 30, the two of us drove to Oregon to tackle Mount Hood, a 3,400-metre stratovolcano.

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