It was only 15 minutes after the Falk family crossed back into Canada on Oct. 4 that their evening did a complete 180.

“I looked up and 20 metres ahead of us was a moose kind of just on the yellow line coming towards us, and the next thing was brakes and bang,” said Sheldon Falk.

The Steinbach-area family was driving home from Fargo on Provincial Road 201 near Letellier, Man. around 8:30 p.m. when they crashed into the massive animal, with Sheldon in the driver seat, his son Ryan next to him and his son-in-law Adrian in the back.

The impact of the crash caused the car’s roof to cave, the windshield to break, and crushed the engine.

Sheldon said Ryan was unconscious for a period of time beside him, while Adrian seemed to be the least injured, so he called 911. First responders arrived about 10 minutes later. Sheldon said he was rushed to hospital by STARS Air Ambulance because of how badly he was bleeding.

“Lacerations to my face and my shoulder. I had about 45 external stitches on my face, on my cheek here, and down to my neck,” said Sheldon. “On my shoulder is another four inches, and that one they actually had to reattach a nerve.”

Originally, the Falks had planned on driving their truck down south, but it needed repairs so they switched to their smaller sedan, something they credit with their survival.

Ryan said he doesn’t remember much of that night. His side of the car was the hardest hit. He’s now dealing with burns and scrapes after the dashboard fell onto him. Hair on the top of his head was also sheared off by the impact of the crash.

Ryan is now forced to wear a neck brace due to a fracture to his C1 vertebrae, an injury that could have killed him.

“Between you C1 and C6 vertebrae in your neck that’s where the main nerve is that controls your lungs and your breathing, so if you actually have a break there it will stop your breathing and you’ll die,” said Ryan.

He said he’s expected to be in the neck brace for two to three months, and is hoping to have it off before Christmas.

Adrian suffered scrapes and scratches, but is otherwise doing well.

While the three men have physical and emotional scars from that night, they also have a new appreciation for life.

“We actually kneeled where we were sitting on the ground and prayed and said, ‘Thank God that we’re here, keep us safe for the rest of this,’” said Sheldon. “We really are grateful.”

Ryan is now recovering alongside his dad and his brother-in-law.

“I’m very glad that we’re doing good and that recovery’s going well,” said Ryan. “It’s definitely, I think, it’s brought us closer together.”

Brake, don’t swerve: MPI

Manitoba Public Insurance said there are 11,000 wildlife-related collisions in the province each year. Of those, 7,000 involved deer and only 60 involve moose.

Collisions with animals like deer or moose increase around October and November when the animals are more active, said MPI.

“If an animal does cross in front of your vehicle, apply the brakes and stay in your lane,” said Brian Smiley with MPI. “You do not want to swerve. Swerving could take you into oncoming traffic or you could lose control and roll in the ditch.”

According to MPI 400 people are injured in collisions involving wildlife each year. It said over the last ten years, these types of crashes have killed seven people.

In Winnipeg, there is an average of 600 vehicle vs. deer collisions annually. Smiley said Charleswood and St. James are two areas where these collisions happen often.