Blizzard rescue: Man stranded in storm on way to Cape Breton grateful for RCMP

Sharon Montgomery-Dupe
Published on January 19, 2016

Allan McIntosh, formerly of New Waterford and now of Ontario, sits on the steps by his father's apartment in New Waterford. McIntosh said he's grateful to two Port Hawkesbury RCMP officers who saved his life after rescuing him during Saturday's massive blizzard.

©Sharon Montgomery-Dupe

TC MEDIA - A former New Waterford man credits two RCMP officers with saving his life after he became trapped in the Jan. 16 blizzard for more than four hours.

These two officers are heroes," said Allan McIntosh, now of Ontario.

"I was as good as dead — they saved my life. "

McIntosh, 46, who hadn't been back to New Waterford for seven years, was travelling home to see his ailing father. He travelled from Ontario to Truro by train on Saturday, but after arriving in Truro at 6 p.m., he had missed the Maritime Bus. He said the storm was just getting started there, so he paid a taxi driver to catch up to the bus.

"Once we got on the highway, it really turned into a wicked storm."

He said they caught up with the bus at the bus stop in New Glasgow. McIntosh said at this point the bus driver informed passengers the roads were bad and he wasn't sure they were going to make it to Sydney.

The bus driver ended up pulling into the Irving Big Stop in Aulds Cove, announcing the roads were too bad to continue.

"I can't blame the bus driver for calling it a day — it was a massive blizzard."

McIntosh said the bus driver said he was going to stay at a hotel and anyone unable to afford a hotel could wait in the restaurant for the night.

"The way he was talking — I might have misunderstood him — but I thought he was pointing out the window, that there was a hotel right across the road from where we were."

I was as good as dead. Allan McIntosh

It wasn't until McIntosh was off the bus that he realized there wasn't a hotel there.

"There were two other guys who got off, too, one going to Eskasoni. I went into the restaurant and didn't see him again so I assume he started walking."

McIntosh said the restaurant was closing in 15 minutes, and the only other option was he could have stood inside the variety store of the business all night. However, he said all he wanted to do was get home, so at about 10:15 p.m., he began walking.

"I walked to the outside of the parking lot and dropped my bag of clothes in the snowbank because it was too heavy to carry, and started walking up the highway."

He said the blizzard only got worse.

"It was whiteout conditions, the wind was blowing snow so hard in my face I could hardly keep my head up to see where I was going," he said.

"There's not many street lights on the highway up there, it was dark and kind of scary at times."

McIntosh said he was on a mission to get home to see his sick father, so he put his head down and kept going.

He only remembers one car going by but doesn't know if they saw him.

About four hours later, McIntosh said he lost hope. He said he sat in a snowbank under a sign on Highway 105 in Lexington, and sent a text to his wife telling her he couldn't go any further.

"She called my uncle here and he called the Mounties."

The RCMP then called McIntosh. His phone was low on power and he could barely move his fingers.

"As I was talking to the RCMP, a snowplow went by and buried me in the snow. I was too cold to even dust the snow off. I just stayed there buried in snow until the RCMP got there."

The RCMP arrived in a truck.

"If the Mounties hadn't come, I would be dead now. I was too cold to even stand up."

The RCMP had also called for an ambulance.

"I was shivering, could hardly talk. They really did save my life."

The Cape Breton Post contacted the Port Hawkesbury detachment of the RCMP who confirmed it was Const. John Hopkins and Const. John Donaldson who responded to assist McIntosh.

After paramedics checked McIntosh, RCMP drove him back to Aulds Cove, retrieved his bag of clothes, then took him to a hotel in Port Hawkesbury.

"The bus was there, it was the same hotel where the bus driver was."

McIntosh said he was told the next morning the hotel called at 6 a.m. to say the bus was leaving but he didn't hear the phone. He said he was grateful as the company changed his ticket and he took the 1 p.m. bus.

McIntosh said he's not upset with the bus driver or company.

"It kind of sucked to be in that situation but I'm not upset with anyone, it might have just been a misunderstanding on my part. I'm just glad to be home."

Wenda Pitre, director of business services with Maritime Bus, said they have a protocol and process in place that is followed when a storm warning is issued.

"We're all about customer service — first and foremost is passenger safety."

She said Maritime Bus posts all storm warnings on its websites so people know they travel at their own risk.

She said they had been warning passengers of Saturday’s pending storm for three days.

She said during any storm it's ultimately up to the driver if they go any further.

The driver in question on Saturday had 11 passengers when he left New Glasgow.

"The driver had given everyone a card, everyone was travelling under storm warning."

She said at 9:36 p.m. the driver notified the company he would not be finishing the route due to bad weather.  

She said the driver reported three people got off at Aulds Cove. Although the restaurant isn’t open 24 hours, she said the truck stop is.

"One of the passengers stayed there in the truckers lounge we think another got a drive," she said.

The driver then took the passengers wanting to stay in a hotel to Port Haweksbury."

Pitre said although they sympathize with what McIntosh went through, the driver did his job.

"The driver made sure the passengers had gotten to a hotel or somewhere safe for the night."

In the morning the driver went back to Aulds Cove to pick up any passengers, and after finding out about MacIntosh being taken to the hotel, tried to contact him.

"The driver went over and above, even backtracking to any of the passengers he had to leave behind."