KAMLOOPS — Robert Price was pretty sure that a man riding in his semi-truck would have shot him dead had he not done everything he said on Monday night.
Price is the transport driver who was held at gunpoint while driving southbound on Highway 5 toward Kamloops.
He was hauling lumber from Grand Cache, Alta. to Abbotsford that day.
The Alberta man had stopped for a break at the Blue River rest area where he noticed an altercation taking place on the opposite side of the highway.
Price isn’t sure whether the man was connected to the altercation across the highway.
“He said, ‘You need to give me a ride,” Price said.
When Price declined, the man told him he was armed and needed to leave the area, “before they show up.”
“They” were the RCMP.
“When he put the gun to the window, I knew he was serious,” Price said.
Price said, “I don’t want to get involved,” but the man told him he already was and that he had two choices: to give him a ride in his truck, or have him drive.
Price’s boss called him on his cell phone after he was alerted to the hijacking by police.
He started asking his employee questions with the RCMP listening in. Price is not sure how police were alerted to his predicament.
Price said he was reluctant to say much, knowing his hijacker was armed.
“It may have been visible, like on his lap, but I didn’t want to look,” Price said of the handgun. “He was clear that it was loaded."
The hijacker didn’t seem to mind Price talking to his boss; he even fell asleep for a time during the three-hour drive toward Kamloops.
“The more I drove, the more he gets relaxed,” he said.
During the quiet time, Price, his boss and the RCMP decided to stop his truck at the scales in Kamloops, preferring to avoid rest stops with too many people.
With his passenger passed out, Price grabbed his work boots from under the seat, which was part of the arrangement with RCMP to be dressed from head to toe in black.
“I jumped out slowly and took two or three steps toward the back of the truck and ran to a safe place where I saw the SWAT team.”
He was escorted to a police vehicle and was on the phone with his boss when he realized his truck was now gone from where he had parked it.
“They were debating on using rubber bullets or bean bags,” Price said of police.
“They opted for pepper spray and tear gas. It didn’t have the right effect they were looking for.”
Price said his hijacker drove the truck forward and rolled it off the nearby highway off-ramp where police brought him into custody.
The rig lost its entire load of lumber and was heavily damaged, he said.
The 43-year-old said he’s been driving trucks since he was 13 and this is the first time anything like this has happened to him.
But Price believes police had been looking for the man who took him hostage for some time.
With his truck in police possession for forensic investigation, Price is now out of work and his employer, Charlie’s Uphill Express, is out of a rig and on the hook for high deductibles.
But he said he’s still alive because he stayed in the driver’s seat.
“If I had handed over the keys, he wouldn’t have let me walk away, in my mind,” Price said.
“Innocent people could also die in a high speed chase with a semi. My choices worked out at the end of the day.”
RCMP said they were looking to release new information about their investigation on Wednesday.
Police had originally said the truck driver involved in Monday night’s incident had picked up a hitchhiker when the ordeal began.
One man is in custody but charges have not been announced.
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