Company's safety app works overtime for Sask. couple swept away in B.C. landslide

A cellphone app is partially to thank for the rescue of a Saskatchewan couple that was pushed down the edge of a B.C. mountain during a mudslide Thursday. And it’s not the first time it has saved lives in Western Canada.

App also used during 2017 wildfire to rescue 2 Sask. men

Saskatchewan couple Gabe Rosescu and Sheri Niemegeers survived when a landslide swept their vehicle off the Kootenay mountain pass in B.C. on Thursday. Niemegeers used an app on her work phone to contact emergency services. (B.C. Transportation/CBC )

A cellphone app is partially responsible for the rescue of a Saskatchewan couple that was pushed down the edge of a B.C. mountain during a mudslide Thursday. And it's not the first time it has saved lives in Western Canada.

Saskatchewan couple Sheri Niemegeers and Gabe Rosescu were travelling on Highway 3 over the Kootenay Pass when a wall of mud and trees came down the mountain and pushed their vehicle off.

Both were seriously injured, with multiple broken bones.
The landslide spilled over Highway 3, leaving debris that took three days to clean up before the road could be reopened. (B.C. Transportation)

Niemegeers used her work phone to send an emergency messsage that alerted her boss in Weyburn, Sask. It is not clear if the emergency services that later arrived were contacted first from Saskatchewan or B.C.

It's the second time in the past year that the Safety Link app, used by Crescent Point Energy—where  Niemegeers is employed—alerted emergency services about people in need.

Men saved during Sask. wildfire

In October, Ron Wedrick, 43, and his son Evan, 25, ventured out to help ranchers and farmers near Tompkins, Sask., battle a wildfire.

The two men were driving home when smoke and blowing dust made it difficult to see. The truck's tires popped when it hit a ditch.

The fire then switched directions and came back towards them. They decided to get away from the vehicle and ran into the fire. Unable to see, they hit a buffalo fence and fell onto the burned ground.

Wedrick's hands and face were burned and his son sustained burns on about 60 per cent of his body.
Evan Wedrick and his dad, Ron Wedrick, who were both badly burned in a southwestern Saskatchewan grassfire in October, are shown in a family handout photo. Evan also works at Crescent Point Energy and the pair used the same app to help paramedics find them. (The Canadian Press/Handout from Twila Wedrick)

Evan is an employee of Crescent Point Energy. His mother Twila Wedrick said using the app initially meant for work saved both men's lives.

"Thankfully he had it on his phone so that the ambulance could get them in short amount of time," she said, explaining that it helped responders find them.

Both of them were in critical condition at the time. So much so, they were both put into a coma when they arrived at the hospital.

"He couldn't just tell them the exact location," she said. "When you say, I'm at so-and-so's farm, and you're telling dispatch that, they don't know where that is. And we don't live in the city so you can't give them street and house number.

"So it's an amazing tool to have."

Someone driving in the area saw the two men and took them to the highway where the ambulance was able to meet them with help from the GPS information on the app.

Employer 'happy to fund that cost'

Twila said apps like Safety Link should be used more widely.

"It definitely was one of the many tools that played a factor in getting them the help that they needed."

David Gowland, a manager at Crescent Point Energy, said Safety Link provides remote monitoring of all field staff in Saskatchewan.

"So what the app does is provides a last known GPS location as well as regularly scheduled check ins so that our employees, we can always be sure of their safety, and in the unlikely event that anything happens, we can mobilize a response," Gowland said.

The app features an SOS button, which can be utilized in a lesser emergency, like a flat tire. The app's emergency button mobilizes first responders. That's the button Niemegeers pushed on Thursday.

The monitoring service was then able to contact her and see what help she needed. Her location was picked up via GPS from the last time the phone was in reach of the system. Her supervisors were notified that something was going on and first responders were called.

Gowland said Safety Link is a free app, but the company pays for the monitoring service. He said even though it's been used most outside of work, it's a worthy expense.

"We realize there are other scenarios where people might find themselves in trouble and we are more than happy to provide this service be utilized in the field with all of our different employees," he said. "If it can save one life or even prevent serious injury, we're very happy to fund that cost."

Crescent Point Energy, which is based out of Calgary, employs 600 people in Saskatchewan.

With files from Alicia Bridges