Erik Jessen and his heavy-duty Dodge pickup tow a big rig B-train in Nanaimo on Wednesday, Jan. 5. (Photo courtesy Les Girard)

Erik Jessen and his heavy-duty Dodge pickup tow a big rig B-train in Nanaimo on Wednesday, Jan. 5. (Photo courtesy Les Girard)

Nanaimo pickup driver tows big rig fuel truck up snowy hill

Erik Jessen and his heavy-duty Dodge help stuck tractor-trailer rig downtown

The driver of a B-train fuel truck got some unexpected help from a stranger when his tire chains broke on a hill in Nanaimo during a snow storm.

The big rig was struggling to get up the snow-packed hill on Nicol Street between Esplanade and Milton Street at about 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, when Erik Jessen happened by to lend a hand.

Jessen said he pulled up behind the B-train and waited behind the truck to make sure other vehicles didn’t run into it as its driver chained up to try to make it up the hill. Snow was falling heavily and road conditions were worsening when the B-train’s driver was finally ready to attempt the hill.

Jessen, 23, a heavy equipment operator for the Regional District of Nanaimo who also owns an excavating company, was driving his heavy-duty four-wheel-drive Dodge diesel pickup, which is equipped with emergency flashers and recovery equipment for freeing stuck vehicles. He followed as the fuel truck struggled up the hill until it again began to spin its wheels and stopped about halfway up. The chains the driver had installed on the tires, Jessen said, were new, but had disintegrated under the load of the transport truck, even though its trailer tanks were mostly empty because the driver had just delivered a load of fuel to a ship in Nanaimo Habour.

“I followed them up the hill to make sure nobody would run into the back of them because they were going at a snail’s pace,” Jessen said. “Then he started spin out and he stopped, so I went up to him and said I have all my recovery gear. I can hook up and try to pull you up the hill, if you would like. He said, ‘If you think you can do it, then let’s do it.’”

Jessen hooked up his towing strap, put his truck in low gear and began his attempt to pull the B-train up the hill despite the considerable difference in size and weight between the two vehicles.

“I just slowly started taking tension on the strap and when I got tension, I just started going … and just pulled him slow and steady until we got to the top where it’s flat,” Jessen said.

Jessen then followed the rig to a facility on Tenth Street to make sure the truck and driver didn’t encounter further issues.

Les Girard, a friend of Jessen’s, was shovelling snow from a sidewalk when saw Jessen’s Dodge pickup towing the tractor-trailer rig up Nicol Street. The scene was also captured on one of Girard’s security cameras.

“I could hear the chains of the tanker truck trying to make it up the hill and figured he was going to have issues,” Girard said, in a social media post. “I turn around to look if he was going to make it and to see my buddy pulling, it was pretty wicked.”

Jessen said he stopped because he likes to help others and his father is a truck driver.

“I know how frustrating it is to be stuck,” he said. “So I just thought I’d lend a helping hand, show some love to some fellow truckers and see if I can do what I can to get them going.”

Jessen said he has had his pickup for about six years and in that time he estimates he has helped hundreds of vehicles out of trouble. He graduated from Vancouver Island University’s heavy equipment operator program in 2016, but said he has been fascinated with heavy machinery since he was seven years old.

“It’s something that’s just natural to me and in my blood,” Jessen said. “If I see a piece of machinery I’ll go and look at it and just, basically, drool over it.”

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