Tara Sheridan’s harrowing journey down a ravine still leaves the mother of two boys in shock.
After enjoying some of the Rendezvous festivities in Whitehorse last Saturday afternoon, Sheridan and her three- and five-year-old sons stopped at Tim Hortons and headed home northbound on the Alaska Highway.
Just before the Kopper King, the Toyota Forerunner hit a patch of black ice on a long, left-turning corner, said Sheridan.
The corner’s outer edge hid a 12- to 15-metre ravine. As Sheridan lost control of the vehicle, she thought a guardrail would stop her.
“We went over the edge and I realized there wasn’t a guardrail,” said Sheridan.
As the truck went down, it rolled over front to back and then from side to side.
“As we were tumbling through the air, I was talking to my boys, telling them it was going to be alright,” she said. “I tried to reassure them that I was there.”
In the split-second chaos, there was no certainty how it would end.
“I was saying, ‘It’s OK, we’re going to be OK,’” said Sheridan.
The truck finally stopped with the driver’s side facing up.
18-year-old Kye Durell was snowmobiling near the ravine with friends. As he headed home to grab his video camera, he saw what looked like a cloud of blinding snow.
“I came up over a hill and I saw this vehicle in the ditch,” said Durell.
There wasn’t any reception when Durell called 911 from the base of the ravine. He ran up to the highway to make the call, and then raced back down.
“I don’t know if that was me just trying to dial the number too fast,” he said.
Durell didn’t even know there were two children in the vehicle at this point.
“It was really hard to see what was going on because the truck was on its side,” he said. “Everything seemed to be really hectic. I was yelling through (the door) to tell her that people were coming.”
“She was trying to push up on the door from the inside and I was trying to pull up and it eventually opened,” he said.
What struck Sheridan was the young man’s cool demeanor through all the chaos.
“He was so cool and calm through the whole thing,” said Sheridan.
“He comes over – he’s talking on his cellphone to 911 – but how would he know what he’s getting himself into?” she said. “You know – if it would have been bloodyÃ‰.”
“What possesses someone to do that? What gets them to come over when they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into?”
Sheridan and her two boys weren’t hurt, just visibly shaken.
Durell, who graduated from high school last year and teaches swimming at the Canada Games Centre, felt it was rewarding to help someone in distress.
“I’ll always be there to help anyone out, really,” he said. “It was a good experience; it’s something I’ll remember, that’s for sure.”
Sheridan is still shocked by how lucky she was after hearing that boulders lie at the bottom of the ravine, and she credits seatbelts for saving their lives.
“I was a little perplexed about why there wasn’t any gravel on the highway,” she said.
After getting the family out of the car, Durell carried Sheridan’s youngest up the hill, and a couple that had stopped on the highway gave the family a ride home.
Sheridan was impressed that an 18-year-old could handle a panicky situation so professionally.
“For a kid, he was so together and he wasn’t freaking out,” she said. “He was just awesome with my boys.”
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