Walpole Island man lucky to be alive after harrowing ATV trek

Arnold Shobway at his Walpole Island home on October 10, 2019 (Photo by Allanah Wills)

A Walpole Island man is sharing his story of survival in hopes of reminding everyone to “never give up” even when things seem dire.

What started out as a routine trip three weeks ago on his ATV to get hay for his duck blinds, ended up as a 10-hour ordeal for Arnold Shobway.

The 65-year-old was about seven kilometres into an unoccupied swampy area off Austin Road when his three-wheeler died. Arnold tried multiple times to restart the vehicle to no avail.

It was around 3 p.m. and Arnold was left alone, stranded, with no way to get back home and there was a storm brewing on the horizon. What would be difficult circumstances for anybody to overcome, brought even more challenges for Arnold. Last October, after getting an infection, he had to have his right leg amputated from the knee down and has since used a motorized scooter to help him get around.

Despite this, Arnold abandoned his ATV and started to walk back. However, it wasn’t long before the pain in his leg became too much to bear and Arnold had to use another method to try and get him home, all while a thunderstorm swept through the area.

“I walked about a mile on my leg then I had to crawl from there,” he said. “Then the storm hit, it really rained. Every time the lightning hit, it lit the whole sky up, it looked like daylight out there.”

Arnold had taken this route dozens of times before with no trouble. Thinking he would only be gone for 10 minutes or so, he didn’t see any point in bringing his cellphone and left it on his bed before heading out without telling anyone where he was off to.

“The bike usually doesn’t stall out like that. I usually carry my spark plug wrench. But just going for a little ride, I thought ‘oh that’s beautiful, I’ll just be over there and right back.’ But it didn’t work out,” Arnold said with a chuckle.

He continued to crawl in short spurts, heading in the direction he came from and battling through two heavy rainfall periods. A diabetic, Arnold also left home without his medical supplies. Although he didn’t start feeling any detrimental side effects of being without his insulin, he said he did start to feel dehydrated.

“I could only crawl 10 feet at a time,” he said. “I had to relax because of the weight on my knees. But I just didn’t give up because that’s my good old thing, I always tell my sons ‘never give up.’ It was getting very, very dry out there. So I just laid back, opened my mouth and let the rain pour in.”

It was around this time Laura Ferguson, one of Arnold’s neighbours, got the feeling that something wasn’t right.

Ferguson saw Arnold ride off towards the field that afternoon. A few hours later and knowing how important his electric scooter was to him, Ferguson said she found it concerning that it was sitting out in the rain untouched.  She went to cover it up and continued to keep a close eye on if there was any movement at Arnold’s home before finally alerting his family that he hadn’t returned.

According to, Victoria Shobway, Arnold’s sister, Ferguson being observant and speaking up is one of the main reasons that she believes Arnold was able to make it.

“We could have lost him I think if it wasn’t for Laura. [She] had come over to the house, it had rained and she was worried about Arnold because he hadn’t come back yet. His wheelchair was there so she had covered it so it wouldn’t get damaged,” Victoria explained. “If it wasn’t for Laura none of us would have gone looking for him, we wouldn’t have known that he was not home. It probably wouldn’t have been a positive outcome.”

Victoria said she didn’t think too much of it at first, figuring Arnold was just out and about. However, as night started to fall her concern grew.

“All these thoughts were going through my head,” she said. “He did have heart attacks [before] and I thought ‘oh what if he had one? What if he tipped over on his bike and he can’t do anything?'”

At the same time as his sister was starting to worry, Arnold was still trying to crawl to safety. The conditions started to become worse as mosquitos began to swarm. However, Arnold said he remembered an old trick his father taught him.

“I remember the old guy told me, slap mud on you. It takes your scent away and the mosquitoes don’t bother you,” he said.

According to Arnold, he had crawled far enough to begin to see a glimmer of some neighbourhood lights but was still far enough out that he wasn’t easily visible.

It was around 9:30 p.m. when Victoria began to fear the worse and decided it was time to start searching. She first started driving around to a few spots Arnold was known to frequent. With no sign of him, Victoria got some assistance from one of Arnold’s seven children, his son, an officer with the Walpole Island Police Service.

Several of Arnold’s family members drove as far as they could down the last road he was seen riding along. His son got out of the car and walked until he finally found his father.

At this point, it was shortly after midnight.

“We just hugged. I was just so happy he was alive. He was covered in mud. He was exhausted,” explained Victoria. “He tells his daughter, ‘never ever give up’, that was his motto. He could have given up when he was out there in the wild and say ‘this is hopeless I’m not going to make it.”

Arnold was too weak to stand on his own when he was found and had to get lifted up. An ambulance was called and Arnold spent the night in the hospital to be monitored for dehydration and to make sure none of his organs failed after his body went through such extreme exertion. Besides some sore muscles, Arnold made it out without any serious injuries.

Although it made for a scary experience, Victoria said she’s not surprised her brother was able to survive, calling him a lifelong fighter. She added that after he had his leg amputated, he did everything in his power to not let the injury stop him from being an avid outdoorsman.

“For him, he really wanted to recover fast. He did his exercises, he did a lot of work to get to where he is today. In no time, he had his balance, he was getting around,” she said. “He is a fighter. He always has been. I’m just fortunate.”

According to Arnold, he’s ridden the same path since the ordeal, not letting what happened to him stop him from doing what he loves. However, he now makes sure to never leave without leaving a note or letting someone knows where he’s going. He also said from now on he’ll always be bringing his tools on him in case his ATV goes out again.

Arnold said what happened to him made him realize how quickly things can take a turn for the worse and he’s hoping his situation can be a lesson for others to always be prepared.

“I’d say, make sure you carry your phone with you. I left mine at home because I just thought I was going to go out for a little ride and I should be back. Didn’t work out that way. Carry your phone or something so you can communicate with the outer world,” he said.

Although difficult at times, Arnold said it was the will to survive and not give up got him through the 10-hour journey that was only supposed to be 10 minutes.

“I looked back and I said ‘at least I made it and didn’t give up.’ I know people do give up and just lay around out there and nobody can find them,” he said. “I wanted to get found. I didn’t want to stay out there.”