Stephen Galyen had just returned to work from a quick trip to Home Depot in south-end Barrie when his world was turned upside down — literally — by last week’s EF2 tornado.
Galyen, a site supervisor for PACE Developments' Urban North townhouse project on Mapleview Drive East — along with colleagues Eddie Amelard and Chris Russo — says he counts them all to be extremely lucky to have walked away after the trailer was flipped over multiple times and pretty much destroyed by the twister on July 15.
“As soon as we got in the trailer, it started raining pretty hard," Galyen told BarrieToday. "We felt a little gust of wind, and being in a trailer, it did a little shake, but we didn’t think anything of it.
"Chris looked out the back window and said it looked like there was going to be a tornado. Next thing we know, all the building materials in the compound just flew straight up in the air, the doors ripped off the front of the trailer and next thing I knew (the trailer) flew straight in the air," he added.
Galyen said the three men were bounced around the inside the trailer, hitting the ceiling and the walls as it rolled and twisted in the air before landing a few hundred metres away on the other side of the road.
“I think we crushed about six trucks… and I think I lost consciousness for maybe 30 seconds,” he said.
When he came to, Galyen said he found himself laying in the mud and his legs in a large pool of water.
“I was very disoriented and was trying to figure out where to go. You’re in the middle of a tornado and you don’t know what’s happening. There’s debris flying around everywhere. … You start thinking about your wife and kids and are you going to make it home,” he said. “I just tried to get up and get out of that situation.”
Galyen says he then noticed Amelard and Russo about 20 feet away and helped them up to the front of the sales centre on Mapleview Drive where they assessed their injuries and tried to flag down some help.
There were approximately 50 workers at the construction site that afternoon, he noted, adding luckily no one else was injured.
“It all happened up toward the front of the job site, so we didn’t know what happened where all the workers were. All the loose material... you worry if people are hurt on the other side and what’s going on. It’s almost a kilometre back… and we couldn’t see what went on,” he said.
“Apparently nothing happened on the job site, but everyone saw our trailer blow away," Galyen added. "They didn’t know we’d made it to the sales office, so everyone on the job site was looking for our bodies in the forest and in the debris; they didn’t know if we’d blown away with the trailer or where we were.”
Galyen admits they are all very lucky to be alive.
“Everyone who has come by and seen all of the damage… thought nobody would’ve survived anything like that,” he said.
All three men were all taken by ambulance to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) after being assessed on scene by medical personnel, Galyen said.
“They took great care of us there — X-rays, CT scans, stitches right away. Chris and myself got out Thursday night and Eddie had to stay in a couple more days. He had a neck injury and I think bruised lungs, so they wanted to keep him in there for an extra day or two. Everyone is out and home recovering now," he added.
Galyen told BarrieToday he suffered a mild concussion, a broken nose, three dislocated fingers and hundreds of cuts from the flying glass, while Russo suffered several broken ribs as well as multiple abrasions.
Both Russo and Amelard are at home recovering from their injuries, while Galyen returned to work the following day to see if he could locate any of their belongings.
He said returning to the site was definitely a bit nerve-racking.
“The first time pulling in Friday morning and just seeing everything… it just kind of took your breath away seeing the destruction.”