Raymond Stott’s death last week was the first attributed to this spring’s flood but his family hopes the community will learn from the tragic circumstances.
Stott, 61, died Wednesday night, drowned when he drove his pick-up truck across a gravel road that had been washed out by the fast-rising Marsh River in the RM of De Salaberry near Niverville.
The truck was picked up by the current and carried deep into the fast-flowing river. Stott was found still trapped inside his truck Saturday afternoon, in about five metres of water.
"This was tragic, just an accident," Gary Stott, one of Raymond Stott’s five younger brothers, said Monday morning. "When Raymond left for work Wednesday morning, the road was dry but when he went home that night he would have been surprised to see water flowing over it. There was no signage, nothing to indicate the danger."
Raymond Stott worked for the family-run business, Allsons, that did maintenance work on livestock operations across the province. Raymond had been working on a job Wednesday and was returning to his home probably around 9:30 p.m., Gary said.
"He told (the client) he would be back the next day to finish the job and that was the type of man he was, so when he didn’t show up on Thursday we knew something was wrong."
Family members were alarmed by Raymond’s disappearance the next day. They carried out their own search for two days before contacting local authorities.
It was the middle of the afternoon Friday when Gary and another brother, Michael, retraced what they believed would have been their brother’s route home.
Raymond lived alone in the country. Rising flood waters had closed down his normal route and he would opted for a more out-of-the way route that crossed the Marsh River, using Alarie Road.
"When you live in the country, you come across situations where you have to make decisions on your own, taking into consideration everything you know. There was water on the road. Raymond had to get home. It seemed safe.
"If you were to come across it today, it would seem serene, safe and that’s probably what Raymond was thinking," Gary said. "We were in my truck, a four-wheel drive, and we edged our way slowly and stopped just inside the water.
"The current was unbelievably strong but you couldn’t tell that just by looking at it. Michael caught something out of the corner of his eye, a pail floating in the water that had parts Raymond would have been working with.
"That’s when I got that feeling in my gut ... that Raymond was here."
The brothers backed up, got a boat and returned to the site and started poking into the river with long rods. When they hit metal, they contacted local authorities who quickly arranged to have a search team brought to the area. Local volunteer firefighters came to site and reached the same conclusion.
The RCMP underwater recovery team came down Saturday. The river was pitch black and the divers were tethered to ropes. They walked the river’s bottom and found a truck.
"They couldn’t see anything but they could feel it," Gary said. "The doors were still closed, the windows were still up.
"We hooked up the truck to my tractor and they pulled it out.
"Our worst fears came true. It was Raymond’s truck. He was still inside."
Gary said circumstances can change quickly during a flood situation. No one knew when Alarie Road washed out, how fast the current had become, or how deep the river was. Raymond didn’t know it was too dangerous too cross.
"Everyone should be thankful it wasn’t a school bus that tried to cross. I hope we learned a lot from this so no one has to go through something like this in the future."
Raymond Stott is survived by three children and one grandchild, his parents, Jack and Margaret, and five brothers and two sisters.
Funeral arrangements are still pending.