It was a discordant ending to a band trip Sunday for student musicians from Yorkton Regional High School.
After spending a gorgeous week in Banff working with clinicians on their repertoire for the upcoming Yorkton Music Festival March 15 to 29, two school bus loads of kids, their band teacher Mark Zawerucha and parent chaperones were heading back to Yorkton when disaster struck.
Zawerucha said road conditions were perfect all the way to Swift Current where they ran into the storm that hammered most of southern Saskatchewan March 3.
“It was almost as if someone flipped a switch off on us,” he said.
High winds, blowing snow, glare ice and lack of visibility made travel treacherous and the buses slowed to 30 or 40 kilometres per hour. After cresting a hill near the Town of Morse, the driver of the second bus lost control and the vehicle slid slowly off the road.
“He couldn’t do anything else but go into the ditch,” Zawerucha said.
On the first bus, a decision was made get off the highway and go into the Town of Morse. They unloaded the students at a restaurant and started to hatch a plan to go back and rescue those trapped on the other bus, but the RCMP intervened saying it was not safe to put the bus back on the highway with the windy conditions.
The Morse community immediately stepped up to the plate gathering together a fleet of SUVs and 4X4s to ferry the stranded passengers back to town.
The Town opened up the community hall and residents brought food, blankets and sleeping bags.
“It was great, they really took care of us,” Zawerucha said. “Some of the kids were pretty upset by what happened; it made everybody feel better.”
On Monday morning the kindness continued with townspeople donating a pancake breakfast. The band members reciprocated by going out and shoveling driveways.
“The students wanted to do something for the town and it kept their minds off what happened,” Zawerucha said.
By 4 p.m. they were back on the road with a new bus brought in from Regina. The roads still weren’t great, though, and they experienced delays due to accidents en route arriving back in Yorkton at approximately 10:30 p.m. Monday night.
While the adventure is not one anybody would soon want to repeat, Zawerucha said they are all fine and were back in school Tuesday adding there were some unsung heroes he also wanted to recognize.
“Our chaperones were wonderful,” he said. “They kept everybody calm and I don’t think they got enough credit in the news stories. I couldn’t have done it without them; they’re a really wonderful group of parents.”