Thursday, January 2, 2003

Paraplegic treks through storm

Stranded in van, man crawls for help

REGINA --Â*Desperate to get help after his van was stranded in a prairie snowstorm, paraplegic Michael Brady dragged himself down a country road pulling his wheelchair through the snowdrifts.

The 40-year-old Regina man spent nearly two days shivering in his stuck van before he decided to make his dangerous crawl for help on New Year's Eve. He was found on the road by a farmer who had joined a search for him.

Brady said he kept warm by running his van for 15 minutes every hour, huddling with his two dogs and using underwear as a head covering.

But fearing he might not have enough gasoline to survive another night in the sub zero temperatures, he dismantled his wheelchair Tuesday morning, threw it out the driver's door and started his quest for help.


"When I got to the snowdrifts on the road I'd get out of my chair and drag it through the drifts and then get back in it," he said. "I just wanted to survive."

Push by push through snowdrift after snowdrift, Brady trekked about a kilometre before farmer Larry Menke discovered him Tuesday afternoon.

Menke, 64, had heard radio reports that a Regina man had disappeared after visiting friends in the area and had climbed in his four-wheel drive vehicle to help search for him on the hilly back roads.

After discovering Brady's van, Menke followed his wheelchair tracks through the snow until he came upon him on the road.

"His shoes were full of snow and he said: 'Thank goodness somebody found me.' It was pretty emotional there for awhile," said Menke.

"What would have happened if someone came over the hills and run over top of him because he couldn't get out of the road?"

Menke said he had a premonition Brady might be nearby.

"Something told me to go out there and try and find him," he said.

"This was the best New Year's present I could offer someone."

Brady was last seen Sunday at 9:30 p.m. He was bound for Regina after leaving a friend's farm in the Hodgeville area, about 60 kilometres east of Swift Current, Sask. Snow was blowing and roads were slick with freezing rain.

He said that in the darkness, he missed the turn back to the highway. He turned instead down a dead-end road where his van became stuck in a snowbank.

Brady said he tried in vain to free the vehicle, placing a dog dish and the van's floor mats under the tires for traction, before resigning himself to waiting for help.

He was cold and wet when he dragged himself back into his van, he said. Although he had extra clothing with him, it was difficult for him to change in his vehicle.