An underdressed and unprepared motorist travelling on the Fort Good Hope to Colville Lake winter road is safe thanks to Joseph Kochon and Brian McNeely who rescued the Edmonton man after he stranded his truck in a snowdrift. 

Kochon and McNeely responded to a distress call that the man made from a satellite phone to his employer. The company, Williams Engineering Canada, called the band office in Colville Lake around 3 p.m. on Jan. 18 to ask for help.

photo courtesy of Joseph Kochon
The section of winter road where a traveller from Edmonton became stranded in heavy winds and blowing snow.

“It was blowing really hard, so we got our grader up and running. Two of us went out with the vehicles,” said Kochon in an interview with News/North. “There were two places where we had to shovel for about twenty feet each, and the drifts were a little over two feet high, just so we could get to that guy to see if he was OK. By the time we got out to him his vehicle was half-drifted in on one side.”

The man had attempted to drive the winter road from Fort Good Hope to Colville Lake without a shovel, winter boots or snow pants, said Kochon.

He was stuck on the winter road from around 2 p.m. on Friday until Kochon and McNeely arrived at 6:30 p.m. Although it was a relatively balmy -17 C, the winds were unrelenting and trip that usually takes one hour took over two and a half hours, said Kochon.

“He was really happy to see us,” said Kochon. “We tried digging his vehicle out but the wind was so strong. He wasn’t dressed for the winter, so that was a scary thing for him. He didn’t have the proper shoes and had no warm clothes. Even though we tried shoveling him out, it just filled right back in.”

“The vehicle that he rented had no shovel and didn’t have a tow rope or anything,” he continued. “There was nothing he could do but sit inside there and wait. That’s as far as he made it, to kilometre 80, which is about the halfway point.”

Sections of the highway that Kochon and McNeely cleared by hand were full of snow by the time they started on their return trip to Colville Lake. The two led the way with a heavy duty truck to clear the rapidly rising drifts.

“You can’t slow down. You have to get a good run at it,” said Kochon.

Without the rescue, the man could have been stuck outside until around 4 a.m. the following morning, which is around the time grader vehicles make their way back to Colville Lake.

Workers later dug the man’s vehicle out and towed it back to town.

“No matter what type of weather, it’s always good to be prepared when you’re out on the winter road,” said Kochon. “You always take your survival gear, you know, the things that you’re going to need if anything happens: winter clothing and Ski-Doo boots, warm clothes especially, an axe, a shovel and tow ropes.”

Avery Zingel

Avery Zingel is a reporter and photographer in Yellowknife, regularly covering environment, health and territorial politics. Avery is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism and Political...

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