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Lone survivor in deadly collision in western Manitoba phoned mom for help from crash wreckage

Hanna Yurkiw left her home near Dauphin, Man., after 9 p.m. on March 29 to go for a drive with friends. Around two hours later she phoned her mom, trapped in a car that was flattened beneath the tires of a semitrailer on a rural highway following a horrific collision.

The 15-year-old was a passenger in the car with four other teenagers. She’s the only one who survived. 

“She somehow had her phone and she was calling and when I talked to her she said: “Mommy, I need you. Please come and get me,” Tanya Yurkiw, Hanna’s mom, said during a phone call from Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg, where her daughter was airlifted due to her extensive injuries.

The car, which had five occupants, went through a stop sign and collided with a semitrailer at the intersection of Provincial Road 274 and Highway 5 in Gilbert Plains, Man. at around 10:50 p.m., RCMP said in a news release Thursday.

Chris Swintak, 18, of Dauphin and Alexandra Watt, 18, originally of Carberry, Man., were among those killed. Two 17-year-old boys from the Dauphin area were also killed in the crash, according to police. The 30-year-old driver of the semi from Saskatoon wasn’t hurt.

Road signs and a small memorial of flowers and hockey sticks are pictured along a highway lined with snow.
A memorial at the intersection of Highway 5 and Provincial Road 274 in Gilbert Plains, Man. where four teenagers were killed and another seriously injured in a collision with a semitrailer. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Tanya said Hanna suffered a broken femur, lacerations on her liver, kidney and spleen, a punctured lung and seven broken ribs. 

Doctors determined she needed immediate surgery on her leg, which Hanna had on Thursday. 

“She’s not out of the woods,” Tanya said. “We’re just hopeful that she’s going to be OK.”

“She’s fighting. She’s a fighter. She’s more brave than she’ll ever know.”

Hanna doesn’t know she’s the lone survivor, her mom said.

A teenage girl wearing a white tank top and light-coloured blue jeans stands near a line of leafy green trees.
Hanna Yurkiw, 15, suffered serious injuries and four other teenagers were killed when the car they were in collided with a semitrailer. (Submitted by Tanya Yurkiw )

“She knows nothing of the outcome,” Tanya said. “My husband and I feel it’s not the right time with her being on meds and everything. We just don’t feel it’s the right time right now. There’s never going to be a good time to tell her.”

Tanya and her husband Darcy have been staying by their daughter’s side ever since. Tanya said while their focus is in Winnipeg with Hanna, their hearts are back at home and with the families of the teenagers who died.

“I can’t imagine the feeling of not being able to take their children home,” Tanya said, as her voice trembled over the phone. “It’s just a nightmare.”

‘Just like any other night’

The crash happened during spring break. The day of the collision, Tanya said Hanna had worked a shift with Chris Swintak, one of the teens killed in the crash, at a grocery store in Dauphin.

When she got off work, Tanya and her husband took Hanna out for a bite to eat before they returned home.

“She hung out at home just like any other night and about 9, 9:30 Chris messaged her and said they’re going to go out for a drive,” Tanya said, noting that was the last time they saw their daughter at home.

Later that night Tanya and her husband woke up when they heard banging on their patio door. It was a friend from Gilbert Plains who had just been at the scene of the collision.

“He opened the door and he yelled for my husband: ‘Darcy, come quick. Hanna’s trapped under a semi,'” Tanya said. “So we grabbed our stuff, grabbed my phone and I seen that Hanna called my phone at 11:02.”

Tanya called her back two or three times before Hanna answered and asked her mom for help.

When Tanya and Darcy got to the crash, Hanna called her back.

“She said: ‘Mommy please hurry. I want out,'” Tanya said. 

A close-up of a makeshift roadside memorial with flowers set on the ground.
Community members have been dropping off flowers at a memorial for the teenagers at the intersection where the crash occurred. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Police wouldn’t allow the couple to get close to the wreckage but Tanya said they went up to the car anyway because they could hear their daughter screaming. 

“We told her that we were there and she just screamed: ‘Please get me out,'” Tanya said. “We couldn’t see her. We didn’t know where she was under there. We could just hear her voice.”

She said it took a couple hours before first responders were able to get the teens out of the car. Swintak and the two 17-year-old boys were pronounced dead at the scene, RCMP said. Watt was transported to hospital where she was pronounced dead. Hanna was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Dauphin before being airlifted to Winnipeg.

“It breaks our hearts … that she was able to do that and no one else could call their parents and tell them that they needed them,” Tanya said.

Tribute at Dauphin hockey game for Hanna and four teens killed

On Friday night, the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League honoured the victims and Hanna before their playoff game with the Swan Valley Stampeders.

Members of a local high school team were in attendance for a teammate who died in the crash, an announcer said before the game.

WATCH | Honouring the victims:

lone survivor in deadly collision in western manitoba phoned mom for help from crash wreckage 3

Dauphin Kings hold moment of silence for the crash victims

1 day ago

Duration 0:40

The Dauphin Kings held a tribute for four teenagers killed in a collision in Gilbert Plains before their Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoff game Friday night.

A moment of silence was held before the puck drop.

Tanya said the outpouring of support from the community has been greatly appreciated by her family.

“To see so much love for her, it just melts our hearts,” Tanya said. “To the people back home in Gilbert who have lost their babies, our hearts are completely broken for you.”

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