Tyson Pearce built his “Viking House” in the woods near his home in Hawkesbury, Ont., but he didn’t know how soon it would be put to the ultimate test.
On the afternoon of May 21, Pierce, 21, an enthusiastic outsider who posts “bushcraft” videos of his wilderness adventures on YouTube, on the structure with his younger brother Cam Deslauriers, 12, and Cam’s friend Miguel Larroque, 11. was working.
The boys, who had not seen the hut before that day, were helping colleagues collect rocks to build a chimney when they received a thunderstorm warning on their phones. As the sky darkened and the panic began, Pearce recorded a harrowing video of what happened next.
“I think it’s a tornado,” Peary tells the boys in French. One of the boys says that he is leaving. “We can’t, it’s too late!” The comrades shouted, ordering the boys to go to the unfinished shelter.
The recording of the companions continues as the tree fell outside the hut. “Whirlwind! Stay low! Stay low!” He screams as the boys cry in panic.
“Please God, please, please!” They shout in a mix of French and English when more trees are felled. “stay stay stay!” Colleagues keep giving orders to the boys.
‘The cabin saved us’
After about two terrifying minutes, the storm passes and Peer finally emerges to survey the destruction. Trees were down everywhere, two of which fell directly on the shelter.
Leaving their bikes behind, Pearce and the boys drive over the next 45 minutes to their home on fallen trees, where Frances Paquette waits in the driveway for her sons. With cellular service shut down by a storm, Peer was unable to tell her that they were fine.
“The cabin saved us,” Peirce tells Paquette in French as she cries with relief.
“We wanted to leave and run, but it was too late. It was right on us,” Pearce later told Radio-Canada’s Dennis Babin.
“That was the decision I made, and it turned out to be the best decision because we would have died.”
As they fell into the shelter, the comrades held on to the boys until the storm finally passed.
I am not a believer in God, but at that time I was believing.– Tyson Pearce
“We were praying to God and we were scared and we started crying a little bit,” Larroc said. “It was a really good decision to stay at the shelter.”
Colleagues said that he too was scared.
“It was panic,” he said. “I’m not a believer in God, but I was a believer at the time. We were very lucky.”
Paquette said that as fearful as she was for her sons’ safety, she was “200 percent” confident Peer would make the right decision.
“It’s a terrifying feeling, but I knew in my heart that my eldest would have taken care of my younger brother and friend with his experience and quick thinking in the woods,” she said.
“I let it all happen, as you can see in the video. I was just happy to have him back home safe and alive.”
The Companions’ hut is built from branches and sticks which he will cut from fallen trees. It has a sod roof, a sunken floor and is open to the elements at either end.
Noting that the simple wooden structure withstands everything that nature threw at it that day, Paquette said she is encouraging her son to turn his passion into a career.
“Get into civil engineering, it’s time!” he said. “Your proof is right there.”
the storm was deadly
The powerful Derecho Hurricane that swept Ontario and Quebec caused devastating damage, downing thousands of trees and knocking out a record number of customers to Hydro, some of whom are still without power.
The storm killed at least 10 people, mostly from falling trees and branches.
An intense tornado, not a tornado, hit southern Ottawa on Saturday with winds of up to 190 km/h, say researchers from Western University’s Northern Tornado Project. He has yet to determine whether a tornado had hit east of the capital, including Hawkesbury, but Pearce said he was positive it was.
“It wasn’t a typhoon. It was a huge tornado,” he said.