Sask. couple swept away by B.C. mountain landslide can’t believe they’re alive

Saskatchewan couple Sheri Niemegeers and Gabe Rosescu do not remember much after the wall of mud and trees came hurtling down a steep mountain pass toward their vehicle.

But, according to Rosescu's sister Andrea, they both recall the split second when they realized they were in the path of a landslide.

"Him and Sheri both at the same time said, 'Oh my God look at that tree,' which was falling over onto the road," said Andrea.

"This all happened in a split second. They seen out of the corner of their eye, the tree coming down, Gabe tried to brake and then the slide just … it hit them and pushed them over the edge of the cliff."

'I can't believe I'm alive'

Niemegeers, from Weyburn, Sask. and Rosescu, from Regina were travelling on Highway 3 over the Kootenay Pass to visit friends in Nelson, B.C., for the Victoria Day long weekend.

The well-travelled road is perched on the side of a mountain in the province's Southern Interior region, which has been ravaged by flooding in recent weeks.

The first thing Sheri Niemegeers and Gabe Rosescu noticed was a tree falling toward their vehicle, but there was not enough time to stop.(B.C. Transportation)

When the slide hit their car, it pushed them off the road and down the edge of the mountain about 30 kilometres west of Creston, B.C.

Niemegeers and Rosescu are now piecing together what followed as they recover in hospitals in Trail and Kelowna respectively.

"Today was the first day that he was able to look in the mirror and actually see himself," said Andrea.

"That's where a little bit of the shock set in, or the realization set in, that 'holy shit, I can't believe I'm alive, I'm lucky to be alive.' That's what his words were."

Highway 3 west of Creston was closed for three days while crews cleaned up after Thursday's landslide.(B.C. Transportation)

Niemegeers has a broken sternum and ankle, while Rosescu suffered bruising of the brain, broken orbital bones, broken nasal bones, broken cheek bones, a fractured jaw and vision damage.

Andrea said the pair don't remember tumbling down the mountain's edge, or if the vehicle rolled, but Niemegeers recalls waking up and realizing the vehicle was perched on what they described as a ledge.

"At one point Sheri said there was even tree branches holding them up," she said.

"When Sheri looked out her window, she said she couldn't get out her window because it went straight down."

Getting back to the highway

There was no cellphone service but Niemegeers had a work phone in the vehicle that she used to send an "SOS" that pinged her boss in Weyburn, Sask. It is not clear if the emergency services that later arrived were contacted first from Saskatchewan or B.C.

Andrea said the couple got out of the vehicle on Rosescu's side and tried to climb back up toward the highway but it was too steep.

Neither Rosescu nor Niemegeers remember exactly how they got from the bottom of the slide back up to the highway, although they know they were helped by some passersby, said Andrea.

When emergency services arrived the pair were separated and sent to different hospitals.

Niemegeers faced an anxious 12-hour wait to get an update on Rosescu's condition.

Recovery going well

Andrea said the pair are recovering faster than expected after their surgeries and they hope to go home to their children in Saskatchewan. Niemegeers has three children and Rosescu has four.

Despite their extensive injuries, the fact that they survived the crash makes Andrea feel thankful.

"It's like a movie. When I tell the story it almost sounds like a far-fetched story that it only happens in the movies," she said.

"I don't know, I don't know how it even happened that they are still here."

A Gofundme page for the couple had exceeded its $15,000 goal by Sunday afternoon.

The road was reopened to one-lane traffic on Saturday.

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