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‘We had never seen anything like it,’ says Cache Creek mudslide survivor


Tom (driving) and Valerie Morris in their 1969 Morgan Plus 8 at the start of a trip from West Vancouver to Kamloops on Aug. 11, 2018, that ended in tragedy when a mudslide swept the vehicle with Valerie in it off Highway 99 near Cache Creek during a violent thunderstorm.


Submitted / PNG

Survivors of a mudslide caused by a violent thunderstorm near Cache Creek are grateful to be alive.

But one of the group of friends who set out for a pleasant weekend drive to the Interior is still missing after the slide swept her vehicle off the highway and down an embankment.

A sudden and violent thunderstorm near Cache Creek on Saturday blackened the skies and sent logs, boulders, mud and water rushing across Highway 99, changing what was supposed to be a leisurely scenic ride into a nightmarish tragedy.

Valerie Morris of Sechelt was swept away in a vintage British convertible by the mudslide. RCMP said Tuesday evening the search would continue on Wednesday.

“There’s nothing new to report but we’re going to keep looking,” said Ashcroft RCMP Sgt. Kathleen Thain.

Morris’s husband Tom, who was seconds away from climbing back into the bright yellow restored Morgan after putting the top up when a violent thunderstorm struck the area, survived and was taken to hospital. His condition was unknown but his injuries weren’t life-threatening.

The couple had organized an overnight ride from West Vancouver to Kamloops for themselves and members of the Pacific Morgan Owners Group in six of the vintage vehicles. They were to have dinner together and return the next day.

But around Cache Creek, a violent thunderstruck struck and each of the cars had pulled over at various points on the highway to put their convertible tops up.

“All of a sudden it started to get really cloudy and it started to absolutely pour down and we had never seen anything like it, and we’ve been through a tornado before,” said Pat Miles, who was in a Morgan behind the Morrises with her husband, Ken.

“Visibility went down to zero and it was like someone was throwing buckets of waters against the windshield,” said Steve Blake, who was in another of the Morgans with his wife, Susan.

And then the “wall of water and mud” came cascading down the hill and across the highway.

Pat Miles said she could see that the car of Glen Sorko, who was riding alone, was trapped in between two torrents of mud and water. The Miles and Blakes, knowing they couldn’t drive forward, decided to turn around and return to Lillooet.

Steve Blake said there was no cellphone coverage and he couldn’t reach Sorko by phone so decided to drive to a nearby house to call for help for him.

The Blakes and the Miles assumed Tom and Valerie Morris had made it through the highway and were on their way to Kamloops.


The scene along Highway 99 where a mudslide swept a vintage Morgan containing Valerie Morris off the highway on the weekend.

Handout /

PNG

Sorko, meanwhile, who was metres away from being swept away by the same mudslide that sent the Morris vehicle down the embankment, was standing in a smaller torrent, deflecting debris from his vehicle, which was partially buried in mud.

When he realized Valerie had been swept away, he clambered down to see if he could find her.

“Glen is the real hero in this,” said Blake. “He managed to get Tom out of the water and he went looking for Val. And Tom was wandering off in shock, dazed, cut from head to toe.”

Three other motorists came with a rope and pulled Tom a second time out of the water, he said.

Two couples made it to Lillooet, where they were later joined by Sorko, who used the lid of his Thermos to dig the mud out of his vehicle, and two returned to Vancouver, while Tom was taken to hospital.

Days later, they were feeling grateful for being spared, and were still processing their close call.

“It could have happened to any one of us,” said Pat Miles. “When we looked up and saw what was happening, it was, oh wow.”

“It could have been all of us,” said Blake. “It kind of shakes you to the your roots and makes you appreciate every day.”

Tom and Valerie, both retired and with no children, live in Sechelt in a waterfront home on Porpoise Bay, where they like to entertain.

The Morgan “was his baby,” said Pat Miles. “He had bought it in fairly good condition and it was beautifully restored.”

“Val’s such a sweetheart, they’re salt of the earth kind of people,” said Blake. “They’ll do anything for you.”

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