‘Mommy, I need you. Please come and get me’: lone survivor of Gilbert Plains crash recovering in city hospital
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Trapped in the wreckage of a car pinned underneath a transport truck — and surrounded by four friends who died in the collision — a Dauphin teen repeatedly phoned her mother for help.
Hanna , 15, is in Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, recovering from serious injuries suffered Wednesday night in a collision in Gilbert Plains. Her parents, Tanya and Darcy, stay almost constantly at her bedside.
“She was saying, ‘Mommy, I need you. Please come and get me,’” Tanya said Friday, sitting in Hanna’s hospital room as monitors beeped in the background.
“She called again when we were on our way (to the scene of the collision, some 30 kilometres west of Dauphin). We knew she was OK because she phoned me multiple times.”
Darcy said his daughter also told them “who was there, what happened. She wanted out because no one was waking up.”
When the couple arrived, paramedics, firefighters and others were working frantically.
“When we got there, it looked like a movie,” Tanya said. “We thought, how did she call us from that wreck? It was flat and the truck was on top of it. (My husband) got to go up to the scene and we reassured her we were there.
“We haven’t told Hanna what happened to her friends. It wouldn’t help her recovery.”–Tanya, Hanna’s mother
“We haven’t told Hanna what happened to her friends. It wouldn’t help her recovery.”
Dauphin RCMP said Thursday four teenagers died and one survived after a car missed a stop sign at Provincial Road 274 and Highway 5 and slammed into the side of a semi-trailer heading eastbound.
Riley Robak, Christopher Swintak and Le Rouxan Niemann were pronounced dead at the scene. Alexandra Watt, 18, was rushed to hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
RCMP said the truck’s driver, a 30-year-old man from Saskatoon, was not physically injured in the collision.
On Friday, Robak’s family could not be reached for comment.
In a Facebook post, his high school hockey team, the Roblin Grand Plains Raiders, said: “Riley Robak was an incredible athlete, an amazing friend, and an absolute gem of a human being and will be missed dearly. At this time, we’d like to extend our sincere condolences to Riley’s family, friends and teammates. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this incredibly difficult time.”
Hanna’s parents said the evening started like many others: the Grade 10 student at Dauphin Regional Comprehensive High School finished work at the local Co-op, came home for dinner, and around 9 p.m., her friends showed up for a drive around the area.
“They would go cruising and stuff,” Darcy said. “They are young and they were friends.”
Two hours later, the couple, who had gone to bed, heard banging on the door.
“We thought maybe Hanna had forgot her key or lost it, but it was a friend of ours,” Darcy said.
The friend had happened upon the collision and rescue efforts in Gilbert Plains. After unsuccessfully phoning the couple, he drove to Dauphin to alert them.
“He saw (the wreckage) but he didn’t know the extent of it,” Darcy said. “But Hannah was screaming ‘Get me out of the car’ and he knew that was her voice.”
The couple said it took rescue workers — who had to get heavy equipment from a construction firm to lift the trailer off the car before using the jaws of life — about two hours to extricate the teens.
”Every time we saw a stretcher come out, we didn’t know if it was Hanna.”–Tanya
“Every time we saw a stretcher come out, we didn’t know if it was Hanna,” Tanya said.
After emergency workers stabilized their daughter, they followed the ambulance to the Dauphin hospital. She was later airlifted to Children’s Hospital.
Hanna has had surgery on both legs and only regains consciousness for about 20 seconds before her eyes close again, the parents said.
“(Her recovery) is slow but steady,” Tanya said. “It is definitely better than (Thursday). She looks a lot better.”
Stephen Jaddock, superintendent of Mountain View School Division, said officials opened Dauphin’s MacKenzie Middle School and Gilbert Plains Collegiate on Thursday and Friday, amid the provincial spring break, for students, families and school staff to meet with crisis workers.
“There were a fair amount of students who came there,” Jaddock said. “They were isolating in rooms with counsellors… It is a tough situation. There’s a lot of grief and mourning and disbelief.
“It is going to be a sombre graduation this year.”
School board chairman Floyd Martens added: “It’s a tragedy… You do what you can to support families and students… Everybody grieves differently, but there will be more (counselling available) next week, of course, when all the students are around again.”
Hanna’s parents said they have received numerous calls from family, friends and community members, and the love and support has been a great help.
Tanya described her daughter as “sparkly, outgoing, laughing, non-stop talking… She is our social butterfly. And she’s a fighter, and she is fighting now.”
While they stand vigil at their daughter’s bedside, the couple said they are also thinking of Hanna’s friends and their families.
”Our hearts go out to the families who weren’t able to take their babies home that night.”–Tanya
“Our hearts go out to the families who weren’t able to take their babies home that night,” Tanya said, her voice cracking.
“We are lucky. We are here with our baby. I can’t imagine it. Those families don’t have their babies. Our hearts are broken.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Friday, March 31, 2023 7:57 PM CDT: Updates copy with name of previously unidentified victim.
Updated on Friday, March 31, 2023 8:38 PM CDT: Updates copy with CP Style changes.
Updated on Saturday, April 1, 2023 10:34 AM CDT: Relates to previous coverage