It was a tragic end to a heroic effort.
The transport truck driver who survived for two days in his crumpled cab before being rescued Thursday, succumbed to his injuries early Saturday morning.
Pat Gaudet’s truck went missing along the Highway 3 Tuesday night.
Despite searches by RCMP and Hope Search and Rescue, it wasn’t until 10:30 Thursday morning that the vehicle was located. It had gone down a steep embankment in the area of Rhododendron Flats in Manning Park.
What began next was a rescue attempt of epic proportions, involving more than 20 people.
“It just was an amazing collaboration,” said Jamie Davis of Jamie Davis Towing. On-scene for about 10 hours, the local towing company helped by stabilizing the damaged truck so the rescue workers were kept safe below the crash site.
The tricky extrication manoeuvre was unlike any Davis had seen in his lengthy career.
“You couldn’t wish for any finer people to help at a crash scene like this,” said Davis. “These were some of the best trained and most experienced at what they do. There was a lot of great talent involved.”
What impressed him were the three aspects of the extrication that were at play at once, Davis said. One team was cutting away at the dash with a reciprocating saw and the Jaws of Life. Another had search and rescue members stabilizing the driver and preparing him for stretcher transport.
The third were the people from Silver Skagit Mechanical, who worked to remove the transmission entirely from the mangled truck in order to free the driver.
Silver Skagit Mechanical foreman Dusty Smith said he had never removed a 500-600 pound transmission to get someone out in his career, but this time, they had to.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again,” said Smith.
Gaudet’s legs were trapped in the wreckage, so the only way to get him out of the vehicle was through the bottom.
Davis and Hope Towing secured the semi-trailer while Smith removed the transmission, which he finished in under two hours.
“Not the best angles,” said Smith. “Skinned up the arms pretty good to get to the top bellows and bolts.”
Davis also praised the tenacity of Hope SAR leaders who “persevered through the night” to locate the driver in the first place, by pinging the GPS signal off his phone repeatedly.
“The hole that the driver went down into was so deep, it completely hid the tractor trailer from view. He’s lucky for GPS — or he may not have been found for days.
“When Search and Rescue finally arrived and saw the truck, they whistled down to the driver, and he whistled back,” Davis recounted.
In a press release, Hope SAR said two members went down and set up a rope system to bring first aid kits and extrication equipment.
Once the driver was freed he was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Unfortunately, Gaudet passed away Saturday morning – his wife by his side – said his aunt Joyce McCardle.
Gaudet’s two daughters had also visited him in hospital.
McCardle said Gaudet was from Bedeque, P.E.I., and had a home in Oliver, B.C.
His mother left Saturday morning from Prince Edward Island, but did not arrive in time.
~ With files from XY Zeng