An Ontario farm couple’s cross-country tractor tour to show support for Canada’s dairy sector has ended in tragedy on a highway northwest of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The tractor driven by Henk and Bettina Schuurmans, dairy farmers from Elmira, Ontario, collided with a semi on Highway 16 near Dalmeny on Monday at around 9 am.
Bettina, 55, did not survive the crash. Henk was taken in serious condition to hospital in Saskatoon where he was stabilized. The semi driver was uninjured.
RCMP issued a statement on Tuesday saying their initial investigation found both vehicles were westbound near a weigh scale location on Highway 16 when the tractor was rear-ended by the semi.
The Schuurmans were driving a John Deere 6430 tractor carrying a large plastic cow and calf — nicknamed “Maple” and “Minnie” — from their farm to the West Coast as part of the “Canadian Milk Tour.” A sign on the back of the tractor encouraged drivers to “Honk to support quality milk produced by Canadian farm families.”
Since departing from their farm on June 22nd, the couple had traveled across Ontario, Manitoba and partially across Saskatchewan, reaching Saskatoon this past weekend. (A tweet below shows the Schuurmans heading out on Monday morning.)
The tragic news on Monday stunned the Canadian dairy community and people who had encountered and supported the Schuurmans on their trek. Many people were following their tour on social media, as the couple and others posted photos using the hashtag #CdnMilkTour.
The Schuurmans had talked about completing an east coast leg of the tour to Halifax after finishing the trip to Vancouver and returning home for a son’s wedding later this summer.
A GoFundMe page has been created by SaskMilk and Dairy Farmers of Ontario to raise funds for and show support to the Schuurmans family.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Tuesday with information from Saskatchewan RCMP.
The Schuurmans were tentatively booked for an interview on RealAg Radio later this week.
Our hearts go out to their family, friends, and their community, including many of you in the Canadian dairy sector.
— Mark Schwaerzle (@Mark_Schwaerzle) July 9, 2018
The @CdnMilkTour is in Saskatchewan! Henk and Bettina met with some local producers last night and are now on their way to Regina. Come on down to 12th and Scarth at noon to meet them and check out their tractor! #CdnPoli #CdnMilkTour #Dairy pic.twitter.com/0SNxetCurO
— SaskMilk (@SaskMilk) July 6, 2018