Quick actions from farming community lessen loss

Raissa Tetanish
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WEST AMHERST - The helping hands of those in the farming community kept a motor vehicle accident carrying a load of cattle from turning into a bigger loss than it was.

Steve Darragh, along with his wife and son, was traveling behind a tractor-trailer carrying about 70 head of cattle Sunday evening when the truck overturned while attempting to head onto the Trans Canada Highway.

The Pugwash family was carrying a load of hay behind the vehicle as it turned.

"I've come along accidents like this over the years, but we were lucky that Wally McNutt was there with his gate and fencing," Darragh said in regards to Wallace McNutt from Truro Heights.

"That saved a lot of cattle."

When the 31-year-old North Wiltshire, Prince Edward Island, male attempted to turn onto the ramp at Exit 3 from Highway 6 just before 6 p.m., the truck cab, along with the cattle-filled trailer overturned.

McNutt was across the street at West Winds Restaurant when it happened.

"Our company in Truro Heights manufactures livestock equipment and corral panels and we were at a show in New Brunswick displaying them. We were on our way home and stopped in to eat, so we just happened to have a load of samples," he said, adding the truck turned just as he and Phillip Baird were leaving the restaurant.

McNutt crossed to the scene of the accident and while someone tended to the driver, he, Baird and Darragh realized the cattle needed to get out as soon as possible.

They erected the corral and gate, and Amherst firefighters on scene used a saw to cut through the roof of the trailer.

Once the first few cattle escaped their top bunk, Darragh crawled into the truck to get the cows moving, while those outside the truck started to load the cattle onto Sackville beef farmer Robert Acton's truck that had been called for assistance.

"With the cattle that happened to be on top of one another, I just pulled the ones on top to get the ones underneath out," Darragh said on Tuesday. "We had to rope the ones that were down to try to pull them up out of the pile the best we could."

Of the cattle, about 15 were dead at the end of the incident, according to RCMP Const. Paul Calder.

"Some died as a result of the truck overturning, but five to eight of them had to be euthanized," he said.

The cause to the investigation is continuing, and Calder said the RCMP is looking into alcohol being a factor, and charges may be coming against the driver.

Once the cattle were free from the top level, firefighters tried to cut through the trailer to reach those still inside, however a change had to be made.

"The trailer is built so heavy in the back and we couldn't end up cutting it, so we ended up getting Vaughn Melanson's backhoe to help rip the back end of it open to get the rest out," said McNutt.

"If it hadn't been for that and all the other help, half the cattle would have died."

Calder also praised all that were involved in Sunday's incident, saying "cattle roundups are not included in the many subjects covered during basic (RCMP) training in Regina.

"Of invaluable help were the individuals who acted so quickly in setting up a coral for the cattle and those who assisted in controlling and removing the animals from the trailer, preventing more deaths."

To McNutt, Darragh was the lifeline in the incident.

"He crawled in amongst the cattle and did the best he could as quickly as he could.

"It wasn't a nice thing to happen, nobody planned it and it's just one of those things like a car going off the road. I thought everybody worked together and handled it the best it could be handled."

rtetanish@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Trans Canada Highway, RCMP

Geographic location: AMHERST, Truro Heights, Prince Edward Island New Brunswick Regina

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  • fireboss
    January 18, 2010 - 11:19

    A BIG thank you to Steve Darragh and your family, your actions saved many cattle.

  • Joe
    January 18, 2010 - 10:56

    That's a Darragh for you always willling to jump in and lend a hand! Bravo Uncle Steve!