'There was no warning': Witness of crash between semi and snowmobile hopes others heed warnings

'There was no warning': Witness of crash between semi and snowmobile hopes others heed warnings

A Manitoba man who witnessed a snowmobiler get hit by a semi-trailer on the Trans-Canada Highway hopes it serves as a warning for others to avoid closed roads. 

Jordan Jones ventured out with his pickup truck and tow straps to join the rescue effort taking place on the highway west of Brandon on Tuesday, where upwards of 100 people became stranded near the community of Alexander, Man., after it closed during a blizzard.

"If the roads are closed, it's for a reason. It's not an at-your-own risk sort of thing," Jones said. 

Even though the road was closed at the time and visibility was severely reduced, Jones felt he had to do something after hearing about people being stuck.

"I have a wife and two kids," Jones said. "If we were ever stuck out there, I really hope someone would come and get us.

"I didn't really know what I was getting into until I got out there," he said. "I kept it really slow."

Wind gusts peaked at more than 85 km/h at times in the Brandon area during the storm, reducing visibility to zero. 

Jones had already pulled 10 vehicles out of the ditch that morning and was about to start pulling a small car when three snowmobilers from Alexander delivering food, fuel and supplies showed up at the scene as well. 

He told them they could continue as he had the situation under control. That's when, out of nowhere, a semi appeared and struck one of the snowmobilers. 

"I saw it two seconds before it hit," said Jones, estimating the semi was travelling at between 70 and 80 km/h at the time. "There was no warning." 

A second snowmobiler was able to jump out of the way just in time, Jones, a trucker himself, said. The incident was caught on the dashboard camera of a storm chaser who was also on the highway at the time. 

"I was in shock," Jones said. "Right away I ran across the highway and into the other side of the ditch where the guy was laying."

Bob Scott, the snowmobiler who was hit, told CBC News on Wednesday evening that his machine had spun out on the icy highway moments before. 

The Trans-Canada Highway between Brandon and the Saskatchewan border closed early Monday evening and remained closed until Wednesday afternoon due to an intense blizzard that hit Manitoba hard. 

Lucky to be alive 

Shocked at what he had just witnessed, Jones moved his truck closer to Scott, who was in the ditch at the time. He and others at the scene talked to Scott to keep him conscious while they wait for emergency crews to arrive. 

Scott was taken to Brandon hospital and received treatment for a broken arm and a broken leg. He considers himself lucky to be alive. Jones also considers himself lucky.

"If that semi was 20 seconds earlier, that would have been me because I pulled across the highway," he said.

Jones said the driver of the truck became hostile with the group helping Scott after he stopped and wondered why they were on the road since it was closed. 

"No care for the guy that he just hit," Jones said. 

Afterwards, Jones posted a video on Facebook from his truck describing the incident, hoping to warn others to stay off of closed roads. As of Thursday afternoon, it had more than 150,000 views.

"I did not expect that," he said. "That was initially just for my family and my Facebook friends." 

Jones said he's received hundreds of messages from people around the world. Most have been positive, he said, adding that he also received a message from Scott, who was still in the hospital at the time. 

"He's a tough guy." 

Jones hopes others heed warning 

Jones hopes others heed his warning and stay off closed highways in the future. He said after seeing the crash, he also does not plan to drive in those conditions again, unless it is absolutely necessary. 

"If one person saw that video and didn't drive, that ... potentially could have saved their life," Jones said.

CBC's request to RCMP on whether the driver of the semi will be charged has yet to answered.

The trucking company involved said they were looking into the incident.