By Andru McCracken

When Corporal Jacob Joslin arrived on the scene of an accident early Monday morning, he couldn’t believe the occupants of the vehicle were alive and well.

“Walking away from this rollover is a Christmas miracle,” said Joslin, a member of the Valemount RCMP.

“They were very lucky to walk away from this.”

Rita and Barry Saville recoup at the Gathering Tree in Valemount after a harrowing accident on Highway 5. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

Kamloops residents Barry and Rita Saville wanted to get an early start to visit relatives in Edmonton December 16. Little did they know their early morning departure would send them off the road, total their vehicle and send Christmas baking and presents across the highway right of way.

The roads were bare and dry, visibility good and Barry, who has been driving for 59 years without an accident, was confident. So confident, he doesn’t carry collision insurance. The only thing that troubled the couple as they made their way north was the behaviour of traffic.

“I can’t believe the number of vehicles that didn’t blink their lights,” said Barry. And it was a pair of undimmed high beams would soon send them flying off the roadway.

About 35 kilometers south of Valemount, Barry said he rounded a corner and met a vehicle stopped with high beams on.

“It had pulled off the wrong way on the wrong side with the high beams on,” he said. 

It was stopped in the middle of a pullout. With limited visibility caused by the high beams, Barry navigated his Honda Santa Fe to the right of the vehicle.

The couple careened through the pull out, believing it to be the road. But it was not, it was a railway access pull out. They hit the snowbank on the opposite side, rolling their vehicle three times down a steep embankment before landing upside in the ditch.

The car was a write off, but remarkably, neither Barry nor Rita were injured badly.

Barry exited via Rita’s door, and surveyed the damage. He spotted the family’s Christmas Bowl, cookies and presents strewn around the area. The rear door had popped open.

The driver of the vehicle that had been stopped on the wrong side of the road turned his vehicle around to face the wreck and called to them after they exited the vehicle.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes,” replied the couple.

“Have you guys been drinking?” 

“No,” replied the couple.

“You guys have been drinking, so deal with it yourself,” called a man’s voice, recalls Rita.

Then the man and the car vanished.

The couple believes the man was impaired.

Presents can be seen falling out of the Saville’s van after it rolled three times off the road on Highway 5. /SUBMITTED

Barry made his way up the ditch in his summer shoes and flagged down a passing truck and asked them to notify the RCMP.

Cpl. Jacob Joslin said it’s not an offense to have your high beams on on the side of the road, but it’s worthy to give the idea some forethought.

“Please make sure that you dim your headlights when you are parked in pullouts; you never know when someone is coming the other way,” said Joslin.

Barry and Rita said their treatment by the RCMP and Ambulance crew was very kind and they’re happy to be alive and well. They also expressed gratitude to a CN Taxi that stopped and helped. A former mountie helped Rita get up the steep ditch through steep snow.

Because of Barry’s excellent driving record, the couple didn’t carry collision on their vehicle and they believe they will be out of pocket for a new one. But Rita and Barry were full of gratitude for the work and kindness of first responders. 

The Saville’s were on their way to celebrate Christmas with their son. Hearing the news of the crash, he started out to bring them to Edmonton for the holidays.