Agriculture students bid an early good night to the 32nd annual Aggie Bedpush on Sunday, when RCMP shut down the event near Portage la Prairie over safety reasons.
Participants from the University of Manitoba's faculty of agricultural and food sciences might now have to dream up a new way to hold the the fundraising event.
The event started Saturday in Brandon with about 37 students taking shifts pushing a custom-made, steel-bed frame on wheels down the Trans-Canada Highway, with a motorhome and other support vehicles following behind. But it ended about halfway to Winnipeg when a passing vehicle neared the convoy and crashed.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said an elderly man, driving at highway speeds, hit the ditch when he came upon the slow-moving convoy. The man was not injured.
"After that, the (RCMP) officer in charge spoke with the organizers and found out they'd had a couple of close calls before that. So the officer in charge made the decision to cancel the (highway) permit," Karpish said. "We understand that this event has been going on for a long time, and they didn't do anything wrong. It's my understanding that they did everything that was expected of them. But given the circumstances, we didn't want anyone getting hurt."
Crystal Jorgenson, communications specialist for the faculty of agricultural and food sciences, said "it was very disappointing" for the students, but they accepted the decision. The bed was disassembled on the route and reassembled at the U of M for a ceremonial conclusion around noon Monday in front of the Administration Building.
"When the students go on the Bedpush, they are given a highway permit. The permit does state that on high-speed highways, if travel is not safe for the participants then the police will make a decision about that," said Jorgenson.
Has the Bedpush been put to bed for good?
"That's a very good question, and we'll have to review that with the students. Definitely that will have to be a topic for discussion," Jorgenson said. "It's been a very successful event for fundraising. They put a lot of work into it and it's something that has had a long tradition with our faculty.
"Maybe they'll have to start a new tradition."
Funds raised from the Bedpush will support STARS air ambulance, the helicopter service that has bases in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Manitoba base has flown 187 missions around the province since it opened in February 2012.
Donations will continue to be accepted until Nov. 22.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Aggie Bedpush is asked to make cheques payable to "STARS Foundation" and mailed c/o FASO, 160-66 Dafoe Road, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2. Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $20.