AMHERST – A Dartmouth man will never trust GPS again after spending nearly 12 hours stranded on a snowmobile trail near Williamsdale on April 9.
John Trainor set out from Dartmouth very early in the morning in a rented sport utility vehicle. He was heading to a prayer camp near Riviere du Loup, Que. when the GPS unit he purchased for the trip told him to get off Highway 104 between the Cobequid Pass toll plaza and Oxford.
That began a 12-hour ordeal that left him tired, cold and disoriented and stuck on a trail in the Cobequid Highlands in Cumberland County.
“I don’t want to give all the credit to the GPS, I think God had a plan for me,” Trainor said in a telephone interview from his Dartmouth home. “It could have ended much differently and I realize I could have died in that field, but I did a lot of praying that day and said if this is the way God wants me to go then it’s time to go.”
After paying the toll at the toll plaza he continued on until he found a gas station with a coffee shop. He filled the tank of his vehicle, grabbed a coffee and breakfast sandwich and got back on the road. Not being used to driving a lot and using a GPS unit he thought he followed its instructions, when in fact he got off the highway onto secondary roads and finally a snowmobile trail in back of Williamsdale.
“I kept following that stupid little machine because I figured it knew what it was doing,” he said. “The roads started getting smaller and smaller and I started wondering if I was going in the right direction. I passed a little town where there was a business with snowmobile signage. I should have stopped to see where I was, but I just kept going because I trusted the GPS.”
Trainor, who is retired from the TD Bank, said he never realized he was in trouble until the GPS told him to turn onto a road that looked more like a field. Trusting the GPS, he made the turn and tried plowing through the path until he got hung up on snow.
“A half an hour later I was on a bumpy path. The vehicle was able to drive through that,” he said. “I kept going and going, thinking I would get a loop that would take me in a circle and get me back on the highway where I could head toward Moncton. That never happened. I got to a spot that I thought to myself, ‘that’s not even a road,’ but I figured I’d gotten this far, I need to keep going. When I turned onto the field I plowed as far as I could until I got stuck. I couldn’t move forward or backward.”
He briefly considered trying to walk out the way he came in but feared getting lost and decided to stay with the vehicle and let whatever God had planned for him take place.
He said his faith helped him avoid panic. Everything he’d start to worry, he’d pray.
Shortly after 10:30 p.m., a pair of snowmobilers were passing on the trail when they noticed Trainor’s vehicle and knocked on the window to see if he was OK.
“I was never so happy to see someone in all my life,” Trainor said. “I think by that time I was pretty dazed and disoriented. It was cold and there was less than a quarter tank of fuel left. I’m not sure what would have happened if had to wait a few more hours. It came to a point where I said to God to come take me because I’m ready to go, but there was another part of me that said ‘I’m not finished yet.’ I figured whatever Plan B was someone was going to have to find me. To me, I think he sent those snowmobilers to find me. I think God had a hand in this. Someone was looking out for me.”
One of the snowmobilers used his cellphone to call the RCMP and the group transported Trainor back to the road where he was met by police and EHS. He was assessed by paramedics and medically cleared, after which he accepted a ride to a hotel in Amherst.
David Noiles of Noiles Towing went to retrieve the vehicle the next day. The terrain was so tough his tow truck couldn’t get to the SUV. With the help of Kurt Sherman, who lent his tractor to the effort, they were able to get back country to remove the SUV from its predicament and take it back to Noiles’ tow truck so he could take it to Amherst.
“It’s not something you see every day, but it happens,” Noiles said. “We get calls like this on occasion and for some reason it always seems to be on that section of the highway. I have no idea why, but it’s telling people to get off the TCH.”
Noiles said Trainor was in good spirits despite his ordeal, but figured it could have been avoided had he realized where he was.
“If it were me I probably would’ve realized something was wrong when the pavement became gravel,” Noiles said. “I would’ve known then that I was going somewhere I didn’t want to go and turned around.”
Trainor said he’s very thankful to the snowmobilers who found him, even if he can’t remember their names. He is also appreciative of the paramedics and police that responded and to Noiles and Sherman for retrieving the SUV.