More than $125,000 has been raised in support of two semi drivers, Tanner Liefting and Brandon Johnson, who lost their lives on Aug. 28 while transporting show cattle from the Western Canadian Classic (WCC) Junior Dairy Show in Brandon, Manitoba, back home to British Columbia.
The accident, which occurred on Highway 1 with the collision of two semi-trucks, also claimed the life of a third semi driver, Jagsir Gill, and 25 animals.
The shock rippled through the dairy industry, as many felt for the family members whose loved ones were lost in the accident, as well 4-H members who are now without an animal to show.
Liefting, a young husband and father, owned a small trucking company and was known throughout the dairy industry of western Canada. Johnson – a Chilliwack, British Columbia native – was a truck driver passionate about the industry. The two were driving the cattle west together, ensuring they had a fresh driver for the trek.
“Like everyone, the WCC Interprovincial Committee are all still in major shock over everything that happened yesterday,” the Western Canadian Classic wrote on its Facebook page Aug. 29. “Our love and support goes out to all families affected by this tragic accident.”
WestGen, a sponsor of WCC, offered assistance in gathering all the donations made on behalf of the families of Liefting and Johnson and the individuals who lost animals, show equipment, personal items and show display materials.
Others took matters into their own hands, using Facebook to ask for a call to action.
Kyle Stockdale asked friends to consider donating show tack to replace the 10 bags that were also lost on the truck.
“Those competitors who lost their show heifers also lost 10 full bags of fitting equipment on that truck,” Stockdale wrote. “We cannot replace the animals lost but we can replace their show equipment. Anyone with equipment that they are willing to sell or donate, please reach out to me. Blades, blowers, clippers, etc. Let’s unite as an industry!”
With 87 shares on Facebook, people from Canada and the U.S. alike reached out to Stockdale to donate clippers, halters and money.
“It honestly doesn’t surprise me,” Stockdale said. “That might sound bold to say, but knowing the people in this industry … I truly believe this community is the best when it comes to helping our own when they’re down.”
“We’ve truly seen the power of community this past year,” said Sarah Sache, director at BC Dairy. “It’s been inspiring and remarkable to watch others spend their time, energy and resources in support of those who’ve been affected by this accident."
WestGen has seen many generous donations, from monetary funds to embryos to replace lost animals, and expects to see more throughout the next few weeks.
“The support this past week has been overwhelming,” said Aretha Westenenk, dairy producer, mother to two children on Team BC and a chaperone at the WCC. “We’re so appreciative of everyone who has reached out – especially those who have been able to help outside of our kind of area of expertise. They’ve been able to lighten the load in ways that we couldn’t.”
Westenenk mentioned that both Holstein Canada and the minister of agriculture in BC have reached out with their support – ensuring that those affected by the accident might have the mental health support they need.
Several of the animals aboard the cattle liner were loaned from various breeders around British Columbia, breeders who offered to loan more of their animals for individuals to exhibit at the Interprovincial Exposition Sept. 3 in Armstrong, British Columbia.
“All of those kids on Team BC might not end up working in the dairy industry,” Westenenk said. “But they will never forget this experience and the support they received from the dairy industry during this time.”