A 70 year-old Ontario man is recovering in hospital after being buried in a snowdrift in his pickup truck for nearly 24 hours amid record-low temperatures.
John Friesen was found Tuesday “conscious and responsive” and suffering from “slight hypothermia,” according to Ontario Provincial Police in Leamington, Ont.
Friesen left his home Monday at 4:30 p.m. to take his daily drive. His wife reported him missing four hours later. Police searched for the man overnight and into Tuesday.
The temperature fell to -25 C on Monday and Tuesday, setting a record both days. With the wind chill factored in, it felt colder than -40 C.
Ken Brown, manager of Leamington’s public works department said at lunch break he told his snowplow crews police were looking for Friesen and gave his drivers a description of the vehicle.
"Without the plow … no one was going to be getting down there," Brown said of East Beach Road.
OPP Sgt. Shawn Diewold and high school friend, Leamington snowplow driver Kevin Derbyshire, hopped in a plow Tuesday afternoon and began searching rural parts of Leamington.
“They know the less travelled roads,” OPP spokesperson Stephanie Moniz said. “They happened to be driving by and noticed the tail light sticking out of the snow bank.”
Friesen was found on East Beach Road, described by Moniz as a “very, very remote road," approximately 10 kilometres north of Point Pelee, the country's most southern point.
“He was inside his pickup truck, covered in blowing snow in a snow bank,” Moniz said.
OPP officers, town employees and EMS workers began digging. Officers eventually had to break the vehicle's windows to get to Friesen.
Dominic Najim was the second plow driver to arrive on scene.
Brown says he is "super proud" of those who helped find and free Friesen.
He said that on Tuesday, crews would plow a street and 20 minutes later it was drifted over with snow again.
"Today's the first day we feel like we're making some headway," Brown said Wednesday.
Derbyshire and Najim didn't get the day off Wednesday, they wanted to keep working.
“We give huge credit to not only the officer but the snowplow driver,” Moniz said. “It’s a fortunate ending to something that could have been tragic.”
Moniz said there are houses near where Friesen was found, but the man’s mobility is limited.
“He didn’t have great mobility so he did the right thing by staying in his vehicle,” Moniz said.
Friesen was stuck right in front of Ron Robinson's home. Robinson's 82-year-old mom saw Friesen get stuck around 6:30 p.m. Monday and try to get out.
Robinson was sleeping at the time and his mom didn't wake him.
When the two later saw truck submerged, they assumed he called for help and was long gone.
Robinson did call the town Tuesday and told staff a truck was stuck near his home but he didn't know someone was still in the pickup until he was rescued.
Friesen wasn’t the only person freed by snowplow drivers Tuesday. Brown said another of his crews helped dig out a doctor on Tuesday morning so that she could get to hospital to deliver a baby.