A 55-year-old woman is dead, and her husband recovering in hospital, after a semi collided with a tractor north of Saskatoon Monday morning.
Henk and Bettina Schuurmans, from Elmira, Ont., were continuing their cross-country tractor tour to promote Canada’s dairy industry when the crash happened on Highway 16 between Saskatoon and Langham shortly after 9 a.m.
Bettina died in the crash. Henk, also 55, was taken to hospital and is in stable condition.
A spokesperson with Medavie Health Services said the semi driver was not hurt. Northbound traffic on Highway 16 was detoured through Dalmeny for most of Monday.
SaskMilk confirmed the couple’s identity to 650 CKOM and said family have been notified.
“We’re devastated, really. Henk and Bettina are family dairy farmers from Canada just like all our dairy farmers,” said Joy Smith, manager of policy and communications with SaskMilk.
“We didn’t just lose fellow dairy farmers, we lost friends.”
— Mark Schwaerzle (@Mark_Schwaerzle) July 9, 2018
Since June, the Schuurmans have been travelling by tractor — with a large, fake diary cow named Maple in tow — to talk about supply management, the Canadian dairy system and show the personal side of family farming. They documented their self-proclaimed Canadian Milk Tour on Twitter.
In a post from Saturday, while the couple were in Saskatoon, they wrote: “What a beautiful city Saskatoon is. Maple & Minnie are both enjoying it, even if it is a hot one.”
The Schuurmans were hosted at various dairy farms, including a few in Saskatchewan, throughout their tour.
Smith said during their stop in Regina on July 6, the couple shared stories about their travels in an open-top tractor.
“It was hot or it was cold, all kinds of weather. They always had a smile on their face and they were always ready to talk to anyone that was curious about what they were doing,” she said.
“They were just wonderful advocates for us.”
SaskMilk has started a Go Fund Me campaign aimed at raising $10,000 for the family. As of 5:30 p.m. Monday, $6,550 had been donated.
Laural Adams, communications manager at Dairy Farmers of Ontario, has known the Schuurmans for the last five years.
“I was shocked, I’m still shocked. A lot of my colleagues were crying,” said Adams, who learned the news from the farmer who hosted the couple the night before.
“It’s so unfair. Bettina was just lovely — it’s just awful.”
Adams said the Schuurmans have done several farm tours at their property north of Toronto to talk about dairy farming. She remembers getting the call from Henk when he came up with the idea to do the tractor tour.
“They wanted to talk to Canadians about the importance of dairy farmers in Canada,” Adams said.
“The thing that makes me sad was right before they left, (Bettina) said to me, ‘I just can’t wait to finally see the ocean.’ And she doesn’t even get to do that.”
— Canadian Milk Tour (@CdnMilkTour) July 8, 2018
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Daniella Ponticelli, David Kirton and Chris Carr.