Landslide survivor in Quebec shares his story; two colleagues still missing

The Canadian Press
Associated Press

TERREBONNE, Que. - The survivor of a landslide has shared the harrowing story of his escape.

Benoit Robert has told reporters how he survived the landslide in a Quebec gravel quarry, while two of his colleagues are still missing.

He choked up as he described the incident, expressing his sadness over the ordeal his missing colleagues' families are facing.

He says that when the ground began to shake, yesterday morning in L'Epiphanie, Que., at first he thought he was having vision problems.

Robert was operating a hydraulic shovel. He says a female colleague in another vehicle, a truck, shouted, "We're sliding. We're going to die!" She is now missing.

He says he knew he would perish had he jumped from his vehicle; so, instead, he operated the big mechanical shovel, swinging it back and forth to try keeping stable.

Robert says he slid — about seven metres at first, then 50, and then 50 metres more, always swinging the shovel to keep the vehicle from toppling over.

He says he crawled out when he felt the ground steady. A provincial police helicopter swooped in later to evacuate him, in a dramatic rescue operation.

But his colleagues haven't been found.

Before the helicopter arrived, Robert says he went down to the partly submerged truck and knocked on it — but he didn't hear a response.

Rescue crews later managed to get into the truck yesterday, but they didn't find anyone. They suspended their search overnight and resumed it this morning.

Robert, 47, told his story at a brief news conference in a hospital just east of Montreal.