LUMBY, B.C. - It's been a little more than a year since Alex Fraser's life changed forever. On Sept. 24, 2010, the 67-year-old owner/operator was heading home on a Friday night after unloading in Edmonton.
LUMBY, B.C. – It’s been a little more than a year since Alex Fraser’s life changed forever. On Sept. 24, 2010, the 67-year-old owner/operator was heading home on a Friday night after unloading in Edmonton.
It was a warm autumn evening on the Yellowhead Highway and everything was going well, the truck was purring and Fraser was only about five hours away from his home outside of Vernon, B.C.
Then he noticed a car parked on the shoulder facing towards him, and what looked like somebody waving arms at the side of the road.
Fraser stopped in front of the car and got out to offer assistance. A few seconds later he was viciously attacked, beaten and left unconscious.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Fraser tells me on the phone from his home in Lumby, B.C. He thinks there may have been three men around the vehicle and one of them cold-cocked him from behind. “I should have been suspicious when the guy under the hood didn’t even look up as I approached. I asked him, ‘Got a problem?’ and I think I heard someone say ‘No, but you do’.”
It was raining when Fraser regained consciousness in the ditch about six hours later. Somehow, with his face half-caved in, bloodied and fighting blackouts, he managed to pull himself into his still-running 2005 Freightliner and drive 35 kilometres to the Blue River Husky where he pretty well fell out of the tractor.
“The wife of the manager of the Husky is a paramedic, and it’s a good thing she was there,” says Fraser. Later in the hospital in Kamloops, it was discovered that his skull had been fractured in three places, and he underwent extensive reconstructive surgery to repair smashed orbital and cheek bones.
The story was picked up by the media and Fraser became widely known as the ‘Good Samaritan Trucker.’ The senselessness of the act itself is puzzling, since there doesn’t appear to be any motive: he wasn’t robbed and his tractor remained intact and apparently untouched. Was it some kind of hate crime against truckers and Fraser was the randomly chosen victim because he stopped to help what he thought was a stranded motorist?
The B.C. Trucking Association and North American Truckers Guild stepped up and offered rewards that eventually totalled about $30,000. A bank account was set up by the BCTA that raised about $8,000 on Fraser’s behalf. Fraser tells me he was touched by the response.
“I even had donations from truck drivers in Ontario.” He received get-well cards from his employer Monarch Transport of Calgary, as well as Barry and Smith Trucking of Penticton, with whom he’s worked alongside over the years. “Do you know every one of the drivers signed the card and put in some money?” says Fraser. “It was truly awesome.”
He also adds that he’s been treated fairly by worker’s compensation, and gets a weekly call from someone at Monarch Transport to chat and enquire about his condition. Fraser goes to physiotherapy three times a week and likes to putter around in his garage doing decorative woodwork with a scroll saw.
But the attack has left a piece of steel plate in his head and some cognitive difficulties. He gets fatigued easily, and often has trouble finding the right words. “Yesterday I was out picking apples off the ground but I didn’t last long,” he says. Whatever happened to the assailants is unknown.
A faint hope was raised that the attackers would be brought to justice in March 2011, when the RCMP announced that they had suspects in the incident but not enough evidence to charge them. Since that time, the trail has gone cold. Which brings up the reward money collected by the North American Truckers Guild.
Since over a year has passed since the attack, the Guild has offered to give the money, about $10,000, to Fraser and his wife Carole instead of issuing it as a reward for information leading to an arrest.
Fraser is touched by this generosity, but would still like to see the perpetrators caught. Still, he admits, the money will go a long way to helping with expenses. “I went from making big money to no money at all.”
Last year Fraser sold his Freightliner and the family RV is up for sale. But he acknowledges the worst thing is that he will never drive commercially again. “I loved doing it and I wasn’t ready to retire,” he says. “Now I’m not a driver anymore; my wife drives me to all my appointments.”
Somehow we slip out of the interview mode and get talking about trucks.
I mention that I run Toronto-Montreal for a courier company and he tells me he had a steady run with UPS running Calgary to Kamloops.
“Good job, steady hours,” he says. “But my favourite times were running the ice roads up north. I used to live in the Yukon, and you don’t leave someone broken down by the side of the road up there, not during the winter time.”
Fraser admits to being bitter at one time, but says he’s gotten over it.
“You’ve got to move on,” he says philosophically. When I asked if he would do it again he replies: “I probably would, but I’d do it differently. I’d pull up and roll down my window and ask what’s wrong. That way I’d have the chance to drive off if I sensed there was any danger.”