Rhiannon McCrea and her boyfriend Ryan Tikk are lucky to be alive after disaster struck on an evening ride around Cowichan Lake on a logging road on Vancouver Island on Feb. 3.
McCrea said she and Tikk entered the logging road near Youbou at about 5 p.m. that day in their 2017 GMC Canyon, just days after heavy rain in the area caused a local state of emergency to be called due to the flooding.
“Almost half way around the lake, I suggested we turn around and I’d drive back,” McCrea said.
“It was getting dark and I didn’t feel like going the whole way around. All of a sudden, through the darkness, I saw two huge boulders fall. Ryan yelled ‘rock slide, rock slide! Put it in reverse!’. I put the truck in reverse, but before I had a chance to step on the gas, an entire rock slide came down on us, instantly disabling the vehicle. It happened so fast.”
Tikk, who was in the passenger seat, grabbed for McCrea and put her head into his lap to protect her, and then told her to quickly get into the back seat.
“But my legs were stuck under the steering wheel and that was the moment I thought I was going to die,” McCrea said.
“Rocks and trees were falling, smashing our vehicle and thrashing it around. All of the airbags deployed, I managed to get my legs free seconds before the driver’s side windshield and roof caved in. I got into the fetal position in the back seat, and Ryan climbed on top of me. I was closing my eyes, screaming and crying that I didn’t want to die.”
McCrea said she remembers the smell of the broken rocks, the sound of glass shattering and what sounded like bombs going off, and then there was silence.
The couple then realized they had been pushed almost completely off the road.
“It was dark, cold and so scary,” McCrea said.
“Ryan found my cellphone and I dialed 911. I thank my lucky stars we had service. As I was trying to tell the dispatcher our location and what had just happened, another rock slide started. I just remember screaming and crying while I had my head buried down in my arms. I was hysterical and begging for my life. I couldn’t die this way. Not now. Not here. Then it stopped again.”
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McCrea said she was on the phone for 37 minutes with 911 and, during that time, she realized her hands were bloody, the vehicle was smoking and her shirt was ripped open, but she doesn’t remember much else.
“About 37 minutes after the first rock slide, we saw red and blue lights,” she said.
“The relief I felt in that moment is indescribable. Two police officers from the Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment ripped open the passenger door and carried me to the ambulance. Firemen from the Youbou fire hall also arrived. I didn’t see it then, but a tree bigger than the cab of the truck fell just feet in front of us.”
McCrae said she spent about seven hours in the trauma room at Cowichan District Hospital and, after numerous tests, it was determined that she had a concussion, whiplash, bone bruises and many other superficial bruises and cuts.
“But, other than that, I was OK,” she said.
“Ryan got a rock to the shin with a minor fracture. The firemen were shocked that we walked away from something so terrible. We were in a lot of pain, I got the worst of it, and he saved my life.”
But McCrae said her body is healing a lot quicker than her mind.
“I’m traumatized but I’m OK. We are so lucky to be alive. I am so very grateful; this could and should have been a lot worse. The truck was completely totalled.”
McCrea said she and Ryan were in the wrong spot at the wrong time.
“I’ll be wary of going down that road again, especially in the winter time,” she said.
“We’re healing right now, but both Ryan and myself intend to start work again soon.”