Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia trio lucky to be alive after snow fort collapse

A Nova Scotia father is sharing his story of a near-fatal snow fort collapse in the hopes his cautionary tale may save lives.

'It just felt like the weight of the world on top of me and I couldn't so much as move my finger tips'

A photo of the Lawrencetown, N.S., snow fort before it collapsed on top of a man and two boys. (Steve Bayers)

A Lawrencetown, N.S., father is sharing his story of a near-fatal snow fort collapse in the hope his cautionary tale may save lives. 

"If we can prevent this from happening to even a single person, then it's all worth it," said Steve Bayers who with his son Ben and Ben's friend Adam found themselves trapped under a huge mound of snow when the fort they were building collapsed.

It was a close call.

On the weekend, Bayers and the two 13-year-old boys decided to take advantage of the metre or so of snow that fell on the Eastern Shore area last week.

"We were planning to build the king of the snow forts," he told CBC's Maritime Noon.

'The lights went out'

Using a plow attached to the front of an ATV, Bayers began to pile up snow for the fort.

The trio were putting the finishing touches on the inside of the fort when it suddenly collapsed.

"I was shaving it off the ceiling, kind of laughing and carrying on. The next thing I know the lights went out," said Bayers. 

"They [the boys] were a couple of feet away from me screaming and they might as well have been a mile away. I was pinned, with my leg twisted up behind me and just felt like the weight of the world on top of me, and I couldn't so much as move my finger tips."

He knew they all had to stay calm. Bayers told the boys to keep talking so he knew they were still conscious. 

"It gives you a little bit more hope…you know that if you're there and everybody remains calm and keeps breathing, hopefully help will come." 

The Bayers' golden retriever, Zoose, tried to rescue the victims after the snow fort collapsed. (Steve Bayers)

Bayers said he didn't know whether 10 seconds or 10 minutes had passed when he felt a tug on the back of his jacket. 

"I'm saying 'help, help, I can't move,' and the tugging stopped for a second and I heard a bark."

It was the family's golden retriever, Zoose, that let Bayers know he was close enough to the surface that he could get an arm free and dig himself out.

"I have no idea if he tunneled in an inch to get me, or two feet, I honestly couldn't say. But I know once he reached my jacket, I knew that there was a way out," he said.

Bayers wiggled his fingers, creating more space and freeing his arm enough to dislodge his foot, which was tangled in the back of his jacket. He was then able to stand, breaking free of the snow. 

"When I got out my neighbour, God love him, was snowblowing next door doing some clean up. He heard me, he heard my screams."

The mound of snow that trapped Steve Bayers and two boys in Lawrencetown, N.S., on the weekend. Luckily, the family dog and neighbours were able to help free them. (Steve Bayers)

Along with a few others who heard the call for help, they all began "frantically digging" to get the kids out. 

"Words don't describe the elation of knowing [the boys] were OK. It was a pretty emotional afternoon after that, I can tell you that. There were a lot of hugs, a lot of thankfulness," he said.

'Fortunately, it wasn't our time'

Ben suffered a mild concussion, a hurt shoulder and a sore neck. Bayers has a broken fibula and twisted knee. Adam was also sore from the weight of the snow on top of him. 

"We keep hammering it home to them that it's OK to talk about it and they don't need to be tough...and act like it wasn't a big deal. They've got to get it out and talk about it," Bayers said.

But he keeps thinking about what might have happened if he hadn't been there. The boys wouldn't have been able to make it out on their own, he said.

"What if the dog was [in the house]? There's a million what-ifs and fortunately, it wasn't our time," he said.

With files from Maritime Noon