Local farmer rescues stranded blizzard victims – twice!


When a 41-hour blizzard began its long-winded assault on the southwest of the province Monday evening, a local farming couple could not have foreseen what lay ahead for them on the highway just outside their home.

Dave and Adrienne Kroeker, who live 10 miles north of town on Highway 18, were about to be faced with the prospect of carrying out multiple dangerous rescues, ditching a running tractor – and savouring a wonderful meeting of three cultures under their roof.

It started the following day, when local CAA tow truck driver Dean Kinley found he was unable to respond to multiple calls for help as the blizzard raged on, and zero visibility on roads hampered all drivers in the region.

“I got a lot of calls on Tuesday, 12 or 15 of them, mostly from people stuck in town, or around town,” said Kinley, who owns and operates Turtle Mountain Towing. “But that day, if the visibility was zero for them, it was zero for me too.”

One of the phone calls came from a concerned Winnipeg business operator.

“I got a call that morning from a guy from Piston Ring in Winnipeg, about an employee who was stuck out here,” said Kinley. “I told him I couldn’t do it until it cleared up. Three hours later he called me again from Winnipeg, and voiced his concern about it, because the guy had been there for a while. So that’s when I thought, ‘if I can find out where he is, I could find someone closer who could get out to him.’”

That’s when modern technology came into play.

“I got in touch with the driver, and got him to send me his location on his phone, using the share location,” said Kinley. “And when I saw where he was, I knew it was right by Dave Kroeker’s. I called him, and told him there was a guy that I believed was right by his lane, and could he help check on him? Dave said he would.”

Straightaway the Kroekers stepped into action.

“We got the call from Dean on Tuesday at around 1 p.m.,” said Adrienne Kroeker. “Dean heard from Piston Ring that they had a driver stuck, but he couldn’t get to this guy. Using his cell phone, Dean pinned the location of this driver. The truck was a five-ton cube van, and the driver had tried to turn around and go back, but in the process he got stuck. The van was sitting diagonally across the highway, and blocking it, right near our driveway.”

The driver, Subhash Goyal, a 38-year-old Piston Ring employee from Winnipeg, had now been trapped in his cube van for 17 hours.

He expected to die there.

But unknown to him, a few hundred yards away the Kroeker’s were marshalling a rescue attempt, despite the blizzard conditions.

“We couldn’t see anything,” said Adrienne Kroeker. “Dave got into his bi-directional tractor, which has front wheel assist. He didn’t even know if it would start. But it did, and he got it out of the shop and started driving up the driveway. You couldn’t see in front of your face. He got to the highway, and there he was, in front of our house. Sunny, the driver – that’s the name he goes by – was so excited to see him. He hugged Dave, and he wept. He thought he was going to die.”

But the risks weren’t over yet.

Dave Kroeker still had to shift Sunny’s van, which created a danger to traffic, off of the road, even if it put him in peril.

“Dave had to crawl under this five-ton truck, and attach a chain,” said his wife. “It was very dangerous. Sunny got in the cab with him, and then Dave dragged the van up our driveway and got it off the highway. By 2 p.m. Sunny was in our house, and he was so happy. He’s been in Canada for 12 years, but this storm was more than he had ever seen.”

Two hours later the Kroekers received another distress call.

There was more trouble reported out on the highway, where winds up to 90 kilometres per hour were blasting the snow sideways.

“Ken Buhler from Chapman Motors said there was a client from Swan Lake who was en route,” said Adrienne Kroeker. “He was coming to buy a truck, even though he’d been told to stay home. Ken said he thought he was right by our yard.”

But this time Dave didn’t make it out to the highway.

“Dave drove the bi-directional into the ditch,” said his wife. “He just couldn’t see anything. He walked back to the shop, and got the quad track out. He pulled up to this couple in their truck, and they were so glad to see him. They weren’t more than 100 yards from where he had pulled out the five-ton truck. These people hadn’t even seen all that going on.”

Inside the stranded truck were Swan Lake Band Leader Craig Solder and his wife Paula.

The grateful pair joined Sunny Goyal in the Kroeker house, completing the storm-stayed party.

Outside in the snow-filled ditch, the tractor remained tipped, its engine running throughout the night.

Inside the Kroeker kitchen, Adrienne had to come up with an emergency menu plan for her unexpected guests.

It was not a simple task.

“One was a vegetarian, and one was a diabetic,” she said. “I was a little nervous, because the diabetic didn’t have his insulin, but he said he would be okay. We played dominoes, and we had eggs for breakfast. I was glad to see him in the morning, and that he was still alive.”

The following day the buried tractor was discovered still running, and although the throttle was stuck, they eventually got it out, she said.

Around 9 a.m. the highways’ plough went by, and Highway 18 was once again open for business. The happy guests were able to get back on the road.

“By 11 a.m. they were both gone,” said Adrienne Kroeker. “The Solders went to town, and they bought their new truck. And Sunny has invited us to visit him in Winnipeg next time we are there, for a delicious East Indian dinner. I can’t wait.”

Earlier that same Wednesday morning, at around 8 a.m., Kinley was already on the road, and on his way to help waiting and desperate trapped motorists.

“By then you could see,” he said. “By around 8:30 or 9 a.m. I got out to a guy that had been stranded out by Minto since noon on Tuesday. He had called me at 5:30 that morning to tell me he had to turn off his engine because the exhaust was plugged up, and he was getting pretty cold. He wanted to know how much longer it would be until I got there.”

Kinley also got a text from his Piston Ring contact in Winnipeg, thanking him for his help the previous day, and insisting that he join him for a steak dinner.

“Basically my job was to find Sunny the help that he needed to be safe,” said a modest Kinley.

The Kroekers believe they enjoyed a rich experience, in spite of the hair-raising blizzard rescue events.

“I was praying all the time – it was very dangerous,” said Adrienne Kroeker. “But you do what you have to do. It was a good experience all round. It was very interesting to take in strangers and learn about their culture. It made me think. And this was the blizzard of the century, I think.”

HAPPY TO BE ALIVE – Subhash ‘Sunny’ Goyal (right) spent 17 hours trapped on Hwy. 18 inside his Piston Ring cube van during this week’s blizzard, until Dave Kroeker (left) got on his tractor and rescued the Winnipeg man.


ANY PORT IN A STORM – Craig and Paula Solder, from the Swan Lake Reserve, found a place to weather the storm after being stranded on Hwy. 18 near the Kroeker farm. Dave Kroeker rescued the couple with his tractor, and they spent a blizzardy Tuesday night with the family.


SAFELY GATHERED IN – Adrienne Kroeker (left) welcomed storm-rescued visitors Sunny Goyal (second from left), and Paula and Craig Solder (right) to her generous kitchen table for supper, dominoes, and breakfast the next day, after all three were trapped on Highway 18 – just outside the Kroeker home – during Tuesday’s dynamic blizzard.


WINTER WHITEOUT WREAKS HAVOC – Highway 18 and all roadways in southwestern Manitoba were dangerous places to be from Monday night until Wednesday morning. High winds, at times upwards of 90 km/hour, created whiteout conditions with zero visibility, stranding motorists and causing accidents. This truck almost made town, before finding its way into the ditch and flipping on its side, just across the road from the Manitoba Hydro office, and across the highway from the Killarney Vet Clinic.