‘Highway Thru Hell’ teams make tough recoveries, including an owl

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Updated Jan 20, 2016

It was a busy couple of days for the guys on the “Highway Thru Hell” episode Sunday night. There were several difficult recoveries, of course, but also some wildlife rehabilitation on the Weather Channel’s reality show.

The episode picked up where last week’s left off, in the wake of a massive ice storm that crashed through British Columba. A warm front and heavy rains had created runoff on the mountainsides along Highway 1.

Jamie Davis Towing featured in “Highway Thru Hell”

But, one of the trickiest tows of the episode occurred 40 miles south of Hope, B.C. on a remote logging off Highway 3. Just getting to the tractor/trailer teetering on the edge of a 300-foot drop was difficult for Gord Boyd and Al Quiring.

Once they got to the wreck, they found a truck and trailer loaded with 60,000 lbs. of compost on the edge of a steep drop and resting against what Boyd described as “a tiny, little, Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

Quiring put a line to the back of the trailer to try to stabilize it. Boyd attached two lines, one to the truck and one to the trailer, to try to pull it back onto the road’s surface. They even asked the driver to get into the cab to try to steer.

No one was confident the arrangement would work, and the first attempt didn’t. In fact, the efforts of Boyd and Quiring actually could have taken their two trucks over the edge had the tractor/trailer slipped.

“You can’t argue with gravity,” said Boyd.

So the decision was made to unload the compost, but opening the back doors of the trailer was also a risk, but one that had to be taken.

Fortunately, the trailer was equipped with a mechanized unloader that moved the compost out and onto the ground. That made the eventual extraction easier and the two wreckers and the rescued truck headed back downhill to safety.

But, that bit of tow truck handiwork might well have been the easiest of the night.

Colin McLean of Jamie Davis Towing had a 250-mile drive just to get to his recovery: a fuel tanker that went in the ditch on a, narrow, busy road of nothing but snow and ice out in the bush.

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While dodging oncoming traffic, McLean drove 15 miles in the dark to get to the truck. The recovery seemed simple enough: hook onto the truck’s tow pin up front and inch it back onto the road and let the driver resume his trip.

But, of course, it was not that easy. Hitting the ditch ruptured the truck’s radiator, so it had to be towed back down the hilly, ice road.

This was a job for a new customer in a new territory for Jamie Davis so McLean’s work was a big win for the company.

A new driver with the job-appropriate name of Randy Jackknife had a difficult tryout for Jamie Davis. He was sent to pull a cement truck out of ditch along Highway 881 near Lac La Biche in Alberta. But, like the previous two jobs, this had a couple of complications.

The first was that cement truck in the ditch was said to be empty. When Jackknife arrived, he found out it wasn’t, meaning his 25-ton wrecker was considerably overmatched.

The second problem was that headed toward him on Highway 881 was a convoy of 10 trucks all hauling oversized loads. Because the truck was still loaded and Jackknife struggled with it, he had to unhook and get out of the way of the convoy losing precious time.

Just as the home office lost patience and was sent a replacement to finish the job, the newbie Jackknife decided to try the recovery equivalent of a “Hail Mary” pass, a so called “clutch recovery.”

Instead of using the wrecker’s winch to pull the cement truck from the ditch, he attached a line straight from his truck to the stranded vehicle and driving forward got the cement truck on the road and on its way.

Jackknife passed his test.

The oddest part of the episode was also Jamie Davis’ most unusual recovery yet: rescue an injured great horned owl stranded alongside Highway 1.  Not surprisingly, the guys were able to scoop up the bird and deliver it to a wildlife rehabilitation specialist.

The episode ended with the guys helping set free the healed and healthy owl.

“Highway Thru Hell” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern on The Weather Channel.