The search is on for a male driver accused of stealing a truck from firefighters at the scene of a fatal car crash near Hope, B.C.

The two-vehicle collision occurred about 10 kilometres east of the city, on Highway 3. Witnesses said a black Chevrolet Equinox plowed into a maintenance vehicle, and that the SUV had been speeding at the time.

"The vehicle appeared to not slow down at all. It swerved and hit the emergency service vehicle," said Warren Hobart, who came upon the crash scene a short time after the vehicles collided.

"It was horrible," his wife Annette said.

"The passenger's side had been torn, ripped apart. The engine was thrown in the back. There was debris over both sides of the highway."

Warren said another witness told them he'd been driving 110 km/h at the time, and saw the SUV zoom by them so fast it was as if their vehicle was stopped.

"He had to have been going so fast for the vehicle to disintegrate like that," he said.

The mess left behind was so great that the highway remained closed for nine hours as officials investigated and cleared the roadway.

Two crews from the BC Wildfire Service were the first on scene.

On their way home from deployment at a wildfire scene, the crews pulled over and performed CPR on the female passenger of the SUV. While firefighters tried to save her life, the driver of the SUV fled the scene in their pickup truck, witnesses said.

"Somebody had come running up and said the guy just took off. He took off with the crew cab, forestry crew cab, and he went weaving through all the accident stuff," Warren Hobart said.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of firefighters and paramedics who arrived on scene a short time later, the woman in her 30s succumbed to her injuries. She has not been publicly identified pending notification of her next of kin.

The cause of the crash that claimed her life is not yet known, but the Hobarts said they noticed a case of beer on the ground among other debris. Police have not said whether alcohol was a factor.

Police believe the suspect drove to Hope in the firefighters' white Ford F350. The truck was located in that city, but the suspect is still missing.

Anyone who sees him is advised not to approach him, and to call 911 immediately.

The suspect is described as white, about 5'9 or 5'10 with short dark hair and stubble on his face. He has a thin face, slim waist and broad shoulders, Mounties said.

He's described as wearing a white and red motorcycle jacket with tan shorts.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Fraser Valley Traffic Service RCMP at 604-702-4039 or Hope RCMP at 604-869-7750.

With reports from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Michele Brunoro