Well this is a hairy story. Canadian singer-songwriter Cam Penner, who was one of the visiting attractions at this year’s Celtic Connections festival and last weekend had a show in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, has shared the nightmare experience he had after flying back home following the show.
Penner and his playing companion, Jon Wood, are big names on the Americana music circuit. Their career took off in the UK through major TV exposure they got when tracks from their ‘To Build A Fire’ album were chosen as the backdrop to the BBC 2 TV drama based on Iain Banks’ Stonemouth novel. The duo flew into Glasgow to make their second appearance at the festival and on the morning after their gig, jumped back on a plane and flew back home again.
He faced a long drive from Vancouver to reach to his cabin in the woods of Nelson, British Columbia, and conditions were wintry. The rough and tumble of touring took on a completely different twist when his jeep hit a patch of black ice and spun out of control, sending the vehicle hurtling down a 200-feet drop. Talking about the experience, although still in shock, he said: “I don’t want to be too dramatic but after seeing the aftermath of the crash, the police officer who attended, the doctor, tow truck driver and the nurses, all said it’s amazing that I didn’t die that night.”
The accident happened late on Sunday as he was heading through the mountains: “When I hit the black ice, the jeep went over a two hundred foot embankment, rolled three or four times and I landed upside down, and hung there, terrified. I managed to unbuckle myself but was scared to move my body. I noticed blood was pouring from a cut to my hand and quickly went into survival mode. I managed to kick the window open and crawl out into the snow, wrapped my hand up, checked myself for other injuries, which, miraculously I didn’t seem to have. I found my parka and put it on as it was cold. A truck was coming and I honked the horn but no one could see or hear me as I was too far down the embankment.”
Struggling to claw his way back up the slope which was covered in three feet of snow, he eventually found his footing and clinging to undergrowth to find traction, hauled himself back up to the road.
“I couldn’t find my phone and knew I had to keep moving. I was determined to get out of there but, kept slipping and falling as the snow was so deep and it was practically vertical – straight up and down. I eventually made it, though, but found there was no traffic travelling in either direction, so I started walking, and when a car approached, I was able to wave them down and lucky for me, the lady was a nurse, who called 911 and dressed my wounds.”
As they were so far from any town she drove the singer to the nearest hospital where he was kept under observation for the night after treatment.
He said: “I spent the night in the emergency ward and walked away with two stitches to my hand and some scratches and bruises. The last two days I feel beaten up both emotionally and physically. There was a moment before I went over when I thought this is it, but then something inside said ‘no it’s not – we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna make it.’ And I did. Next morning my beautiful wife and daughter came and got me and when they picked me up, I held them tight. We drove by the scene of the accident where I took these pictures, and we went to retrieve my belongings. Unfortunately my guitar never made it. You could say it took the hit that night!”
Penner will return to these shores again for three weeks of touring around the UK in September, and has plans to record a new album ahead of the next visit. Right now, everything’s on hold, although he says he is determined to keep upcoming performance commitments. AUK wishes him all the best with his recovery, and hey, watch those roads people!