Melting ice roads strand truck drivers

RCMP officers used a helicopter to rescue a truck driver stranded in northern Manitoba due to thawing winter roads.

RCMP officers used a helicopter to rescue a truck driver stranded in northern Manitoba due to thawing winter roads.

However, several other truckers are still stuck near the area of Wrong Lake.

RCMP in Poplar River were alerted Monday morning by a commercial trucking company that one of their drivers had not arrived in Winnipeg after departing St. Theresa Point First Nation several days earlier.

The 52-year-old driver left St. Theresa Point, about 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, on Friday March 12 and was hauling a flatbed trailer with another semi cab on it.

He made brief contact with his employer early Sunday morning, saying he had been traveling on ice roads but had become stuck in mud somewhere on the north side of Wrong Lake.

The driver, a resident of Selkirk, had become separated from a convoy of other truckers. He had no food and feared for his life because he also had a medical condition, according to RCMP.

Nobody in the company heard from him after that Sunday call.

Man spotted by airplane

On Monday, an RCMP plane circled the area around Wrong Lake and located a lone semi-trailer unit just north of Wrong Lake.

The pilot said a person waved as the plane passed overhead. But the pilot also noticed several other semi trucks stranded on the south side of Wrong Lake.

Those other drivers had a fire going near Thunderbird Lodge, a fishing resort, and there were no immediate safety concerns so a decision was made to first get to the lone truck driver, RCMP said.

However, there was no place to land the plane so the RCMP chartered a helicopter.

A nurse and RCMP officer, along with food and water, were put on board and the trucker was airlifted safe and sound.

He was transported to nearby Bloodvein First Nation, where arrangements were made to fly him to Winnipeg.

As of Tuesday, officials with the trucking company were arranging to send assistance to the drivers stuck on the south side of Wrong Lake, RCMP said.

Short season for winter roads

The lake, about 350 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is part of the province's 2,200-kilometre winter road system to northern and remote communities.

The roads span frozen muskeg, lakes, rivers and creeks to temporarily connect those regions with the rest of the province.

Usually, the roads would be open for about eight weeks over the season, enabling trucks to bring in a year's worth of food, fuel and supplies.

But this year the roads were open for less than a month.

Mild weather delayed their start and a warmer-than-usual spring had deteriorated ice conditions.

On Monday, the provincial government declared the road system would be closed as of midnight.