Province 'reviewing' Coquihalla Hwy. crash that left man and dog dead, others injured
VANCOUVER -- The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says it is reviewing Wednesday’s deadly multi-vehicle pile-up on the Coquihalla Highway with the maintenance contractor.
Approximately 50 people were involved in the terrifying crashes that killed a South Okanagan man in his 40s as well as his dog.
Five people were taken to hospital with what RCMP described as “significant injuries,” however only one remained in hospital Thursday afternoon with broken bones. RCMP say that person is expected to recover.
Alberta truck driver Mitchell Danilak said the road conditions were “atrocious” at the time of the accidents.
“It was hard-pack and very icy. There was next to nothing for sand or salt on this downward stretch of the curve,” he said after witnessing the crashes.
CTV News requested an interview with the maintenance contractor but they did not return our calls.
CTV News also wanted to talk to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Flemming. Instead, the ministry sent a statement.
The statement says in part that five to seven centimetres of snow fell on that section of Highway 5 beginning about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“The maintenance contractor had six plows out, two of which are dedicated to the portion of the Coquihalla for which they’re responsible,” a release from the ministry says.
“Full pass of the highway – plowing and sanding – happened at 7:30 a.m. Abrasives were also laid in the fast lane at about 9:45 a.m. This 9:45 a.m. pass with abrasives was after the first commercial vehicle lost traction, but prior to the chain reaction incident.”
The statement goes on to say that “staff are reviewing the incident with the maintenance contractor to see if anything else could have been done, within the contracted service levels, to prevent yesterday’s incident.”
According to Fraser Valley Traffic Services, the incident began with a report of a semi truck stopped in the northbound lanes of Highway 5 in the S-curves.
“An officer from FVTS responded and came upon the scene to find that during the time it took him to get there, a pickup truck had collided into the rear of stopped semi truck,” RCMP say in a news release.
“The road conditions in the area of the collision were treacherous and caught many unaware which resulted in a cascading, chain-reaction collision involving at least two dozen vehicles, including passenger vehicles, semi trucks, and a bus.”
An officer from FVTS approaching the scene also collided with a concrete barrier.
“The police car was then hit from behind by jack-knifed semi truck that was not able to stop, injuring the police officer who watched through his rear-view mirror as he was about to be hit,” says the statement from RCMP.
Police confirm severe road and weather conditions contributed significantly to the crash.
“Speed relative to conditions also played a factor, and police would like to remind motorists to drive according to the road and weather conditions,” RCMP say.
“In this collision, slower speeds may not have prevented collisions due to the highway being glare ice, but slower speeds may have reduced injury. A number of rescue vehicles, including tow trucks and a BC ambulance were also involved in minor crashes as they arrived at the scene to render assistance,” reads the statement.
RCMP say no criminal charges are expected.
The Transportation Ministry says serious winter collisions on Highway 5 between Hope and Merritt have been trending downward over the last five years.
There were 86 serious collisions during the 2015/2016 winter compared with 40 last winter.