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Grand chief recovering after accident on Highway 3 near Hope
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip is expecting to be home this week, but it will be some time before he is fully recovered from injuries sustained in an accident Friday evening.
“Now I am looking at my phone at all the meetings I have been missing,” said Phillip from Penticton Regional Hospital Monday. His wife, Joan, said his injuries include a broken ankle, fractured tibia and a cracked sternum.
“He is in a lot of pain, he said even breathing is hard on his sternum,” said Joan.
Word of the grand chief’s accident spread quickly and far, even sparking a call from Sochi, where Lynda Price, a former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation, is watching her son, Carey Price, play goal for Canada.
Phillip was alone in his red Chevy Tahoe, heading home to Penticton from the Lower Mainland on Feb. 14 when he hit a patch of black ice outside Princeton and skidded out of control across the road, bouncing off a rock wall and ending upside down in the middle of oncoming traffic.
“There was absolutely no opportunity to take any kind of corrective action. I didn’t even have time to utter an expletive,” said Phillip. “The minute I lost control, I knew it was going to be the worst accident of my life. I was heading right for the rocks. I hit with the most unimaginable force.”
Joan said she started to worry when their granddaughter, who lives in Hedley, let her know Phillip was late picking her up.
“She knew something must have happened, because he is never later than 8 p.m. when he is picking her up. She was worried about him, and I was starting to get worried, then I got a phone call from Stewart,” said Joan. “The RCMP were going to call, but Stewart suggested maybe he better talk to me first. We never like getting those kind of calls from the RCMP.”
Phillip was thankful to be alive after his truck came to a stop on its roof, but the danger wasn’t over. The people gathered round his truck, trying to free him, suddenly scattered — a semi-trailer was bearing down on the scene, skidding and unable to stop.
“I survived the accident, now I am going to get killed hit by a truck. The driver managed to let off the brake and straightened out and hurtled through the accident scene,” said Phillip.
According to Joan, among the people who stopped to help was a lady by the name of Clarice Morris, a member of the Skeetchestn Indian Band.
“She got him out of the seatbelt and then he was so cold laying on the highway, she lay next to him,” said Joan. “She kept him warm, at least until the ambulance got there. He was under a blanket, but still he was laying on the bare road.”
“It took the ambulance quite a while to get there. As time went on, I was getting more cold and I was shaking,” said the grand chief. “That lady just kept pressing against me and she kept me focused by asking me the names of my grandchildren and what day it was, she wouldn’t let me drift.”
The rescuers also managed to recover Joan’s Valentine’s gift from the Tahoe — a dozen red roses and a plush toy.
“We managed to salvage those out of the wreckage, so when the ambulance took me to Hope, I was on one side of the ambulance strapped in and the roses were on the other side and the stuffed animal,” said Phillip. “So Joan got her roses.”
Joan expects her husband to be released this week, then brought to their home for an extended recovery over eight to 12 weeks.