Good Samaritan saves women stuck in Coquihalla Connector chaos

A Lower Mainland woman wants to thank a good Samaritan who saved her and her friend from a scary situation on the Coquihalla Connector near West Kelowna Sunday.

Denise Morettin and her friend were driving along Highway 97C  near the Pennask Summit when they were suddenly engulfed in a blizzard.  

"It was crazy, it happened so fast. The snow was everywhere and was extremely high," said Morettin. "I thought we're not going to make it. We couldn't turn around because there was a big meridian. Cars on the other side were in trouble too."

A truck ahead of Morettin started sliding and came to a stop sideways, blocking the entire northbound highway. A few cars back, a police cruiser with lights flashing was rear-ended by a pickup truck that couldn't stop on the ice.

Tony to the rescue

Amidst the chaos emerged the calming presence of Tony Ramaj.

Ramaj, who drives for Canada Pro Moving, was also stuck in the gridlock. He first turned his attention to the truck at the front of the line, helping that driver chain up, straighten out and get on his way.

He then approached Morettin and her friend who were next in line, helping them work their car out of the heavy snow and then sitting on the hood to help the front wheel drive get traction. 

Once the car moved up the highway to a safer spot, Ramaj took over the wheel himself, while his brother Serge followed behind in the company truck.

When contacted, he said he felt compelled to help out because he was scared for the women.

"The road was very bad. They did not have the experience and I did not feel comfortable leaving them," he said. "I don't want nothing to happen to them."

Ramaj drove the women all the way to Merritt, but it didn't end there.

He and his brother then insisted on escorting the women as they drove over Highway 8 to Highway 1, the only route open after two multiple vehicle accidents shut down the entire Coquihalla south of Merritt.

Roadside angel

As it turns out, the 48-year-old is an old pro when it comes to rescuing stranded drivers.

In two decades of driving truck in Canada, Ramaj claims he's never gone a winter without pulling a good number of vehicles and drivers out of trouble.

He says it was the same in his native Kosovo where he used to drive routes all over Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

"I'm a very good guy," he said matter-of-factly.

Morettin agrees, which is why she contacted CBC News to tell her story. 

"He was amazing," she said. "I don't know where we would be without his help. We are truly grateful."