Veteran chuckwagon racer Herman Flad has died after his tractor-trailer collided with a vehicle on a northern Alberta highway Tuesday while pulling a trailer of his prized thoroughbreds to a race.


Herman Flad, 68, was a familiar face at the Calgary Stampede after more than 35 years in the chuckwagon race circuit. ((Billy Melville))

Flad, 68, was en route to Dawson Creek, B.C., for the last leg of the season's chuckwagon circuit when he died in the mid-afternoon crash on Highway 2 near Rycroft, 70 kilometres north of Grande Prairie. Fourteen of his horses were also killed in the crash when the trailer tumbled into a ravine.

The colourful character's career in chuckwagon racing spanned more than 35 years and he was a familiar face at the Calgary Stampede.

The grain farmer took up chuckwagon racing in his early 30s and quickly began taking home a number of prizes.

"He was very competitive. He won all the major events at one point in his career," close friend Kelly Sutherland told CBC News.

Sutherland described the chuckwagon racer as a hard worker and true athlete, with a traditional cowboy spirit.

"He loved the sport, loved the western way of life, and was always full of a joke or a laugh like nobody else."

Even in his 60s, Flad had the endurance to practise and train over a 90-day schedule.

"Herman will be missed by all in the [World Professional Chuckwagon Association]," the WPCA said on its website.

WPCA said Flad is survived by his wife Jean, three children and nine grandchildren.

Driving record impressive

The association said Flad had a "distinguished driving record," winning several major and prestigious chuckwagon championships, including the inaugural WPCA Pro Tour Championship, the Calgary Stampede Rangeland Derby and the Klondike Chuckwagon Derby in Edmonton.

He also twice won the Cheyenne Frontier Days championship, and qualified four times for the Calgary Stampede's sudden death championship final heat.

RCMP said Flad's tractor-trailer was northbound on Highway 2 when it collided with a southbound pickup truck. Police said one of the vehicles crossed the centre line, but it's still unclear which one.

A man in the pickup was flown to an Edmonton hospital, while a child in the truck was taken to Grande Prairie hospital.

Police said alcohol wasn't a factor.

With files from the Canadian Press