Grandfather hailed a hero after fiery fatal collision near Three Hills
Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:22AM MDT
A grandfather is being called a hero, after he helped save the lives of his two grandchildren during a fiery collision near Three Hills.
Three people are dead and three others were injured - including two children - after the crash south of Three Hills on Friday night.
Police say two trucks collided and became engulfed in flames east of Didsbury on Highway 21 south of Three Hills at Township Road 310.
RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely tells CTV News that a southbound pickup truck with four occupants was pulling a bobcat on a trailer when it collided head-on with a northbound pickup truck with two occupants pulling a horse trailer – with two horses inside.
Neely said one person from the southbound truck and two occupants from the northbound truck died from the fiery crash.
“It was truly horrific,” Neely said.
"The vehicles almost instantly erupted into fire. Because of the nature of the head-on collision the vehicles were entangled so the fire quickly spread."
Witnesses told police that a grandfather in the southbound truck had worked to save two children in the same truck – pushing them out of the vehicle to their father who had managed to get out of the vehicle first.
"The grandfather managed to twist so that he could reach the grandchildren and push them out the driver window according to witnesses," Neely said.
The two children and their father were taken to hospital and remain there on Saturday.
One of the children had to be airlifted by STARS.
The grandfather is now being hailed a hero.
“(He was) just really salt of the Earth, a wonderful guy,” said family friend Christine Coggins.
Police have not released the identity of any of the victims but family friends tell CTV News the grandfather who died was Les Toews, a Linden, Alta. resident who is described as a selfless person.
“He definitely is a hero,” Coggins said.
“You couldn’t find a nicer guy. Les was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He was always willing to help someone out, always willing to lend a hand. He’s just a really gentle, sweet, and nice guy.”
Family friends say the son-in-law and his two sons were not seriously injured but were taken to hospital as a precaution.
Coggins says the family is now struggling to cope with the tragedy.
“They’re really broken up,” she said. “His wife is strong. She may be in a bit of shock but she’s definitely strong and coping really well.”
She says Toews’ death has affected the entire community.
“We’ll move on, we’ll deal with it, we’ll be fine, but there will always be a Les Toews-shaped hole where he isn’t there anymore to do those things he used to do,” Coggins said.
The identities of the two victims from the northbound vehicle have not yet been released.
Police say speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.
A collision reconstructionist was called to the scene and it appears mechanical failure may have contributed to the collision but the investigation is ongoing.
One horse also died at the scene and the second was taken to a vet for treatment for burns.
The highway was closed for hours as a result of the crash – re-opening at 6 a.m. Saturday.
With files from Michelle Gerwing