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Pair of collisions force highway closure

A cow sticks its nose out of an air hole in a cattle trailer following an incident where the truck’s driver lost control of the vehicle and that then involved a second semi trailer, which could not avoid the accident scene. The cattle trailer remained upright and the cattle were reported to be unharmed - Lachlan Labere photo
A cow sticks its nose out of an air hole in a cattle trailer following an incident where the truck’s driver lost control of the vehicle and that then involved a second semi trailer, which could not avoid the accident scene. The cattle trailer remained upright and the cattle were reported to be unharmed
— image credit: Lachlan Labere photo

Slippery roads and semis were common factors in two separate incidents that resulted in highway closures in the Shuswap Tuesday.

One of the closures stemmed from an incident that occurred on the night of Monday, Dec. 9 in Malakwa.

At approximately 9:41 p.m., Sicamous RCMP responded to a report of a multi-vehicle accident on the Eagle River Bridge, 15 kilometres east of Sicamous on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Sgt. Dave Dubnyk reported that responding officers learned a Ford Bronco skidded out of control, rolled and came to rest in the middle of the highway. The driver was able to exit the vehicle unharmed. However, three tractor-trailer units then drove into the accident scene and, subsequently, became part of it.

One of the semis wound up blocking traffic, while another became engulfed in flames. Firefighters from the Malakwa Volunteer Fire Department, with aid from  Sicamous, were able to prevent the blaze from reaching the other vehicles.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire services co-ordinator Kenn Mount said the fire was hot enough to damage the bridge.

The bridge was closed following the incident and not fully reopened until 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Dubnyk said representatives from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure were at the scene Tuesday morning to assess the bridge’s structural integrity. MOTI spokesperson Kathy Cloutier stated Wednesday in an email that the ministry’s engineers found the bridge to be in “structurally safe condition, and is safe for public travel.”

Police continue to investigate the cause of this incident.

While ministry crews were working Tuesday to clear the bridge, a second incident involving two tractor-trailer units occurred on the highway west of Sicamous.

Salmon Arm Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane reported that on Dec. 10 at 11:15 a.m., officers responded to a two-vehicle collision on the Trans-Canada, roughly four kilometres east of the Canoe mill.

Keane says a westbound truck loaded with cattle skidded out of control. The truck wound up in the eastbound lane ditch. The trailer remained upright, adjacent to the ditch, and the cattle were reported to be unharmed.

Keane says the driver of a second westbound tractor-trailer unit was unable to stop when it came upon the scene and collided with the already downed semi.  The second semi’s trailer separated and fell on its side, effectively blocking the width of the highway. The tractor portion wound up on its side next to the first tractor.

One of the drivers was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

The highway wasn’t fully reopened until 9:07 p.m.

A witness at the scene, the driver of an eastbound semi, attributed the collisions to speed and icy conditions. Keane, however, was unavailable to confirm this prior to presstime.

Over the summer, the ministry revealed plans to replace the Eagle River Bridge as part of the B.C. government’s commitment to four-lane the Trans-Canada.  It was noted during an open house hosted by ministry staff that 30 collisions occurred on the bridge between 2002 and 2011. Two of those involved fatalities, 12 resulted in injuries and 16 in property damage only. Cloutier says ministry staff have been consulting with the community on the bridge’s replacement, and design work is nearly complete.

“This project is a priority for the province and the tender schedule has not been confirmed,” says Cloutier.

The project will include the four-laning of approximately 2.7 kilometres of highway.

 

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