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Collisions cause highway headaches in the Shuswap
Two collisions on the Trans-Canada Highway at Tappen put the brakes on long weekend traffic for hours Saturday afternoon.
The first crash happened at 11:41 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 on the Trans-Canada near the Tappen Co-op gas station, approximately 15 kilometres west of Salmon Arm.
A semi-truck with a trailer was headed east on the highway, while a pick-up truck towing a fifth-wheel trailer was also heading east when it collided with the rear of the semi.
Inside the pick-up truck was a man, woman and five-year-old child who was not injured. The driver was seriously hurt and was transported by air ambulance to hospital, while the female passenger sustained minor injuries.
Members of the Tappen Sunnybrae Volunteer Fire Department were on scene in 10 minutes and were able to remove the little girl from her car seat in the back of the vehicle behind her mother.
She was taken aside by a member of the South Shuswap First Responders until she could be placed in an ambulance with her mom.
Tappen Sunnybrae Fire Chief Kyle Schneider says 10 volunteer firefighters cleared the area while they shut off leaking propane tanks which were crushed between the pickup and the trailer it was pulling. They also sprayed the truck’s smoking engine block with foam.
Schneider says firefighters remained on scene in case fire broke out, but were unable to extricate the male driver or the front seat passenger. They do not have road rescue equipment and had to wait for members of the Salmon Arm Road Rescue unit to arrive.
Tim Alstad, a member of the volunteer road rescue unit, says the female passenger was removed from the vehicle easily, but it took the three-person crew more than an hour to extricate the driver.
Alstad says the rescue unit arrived at the scene 35 minutes after the accident because of a communication issue that caused a 10-minute delay. A pager belonging to a member of the weekend duty crew was inoperable, but when an off-duty member heard no response to the initial dispatch, he began phoning and texting other members.
Calls to 911 reporting vehicle accidents are dispatched to BC Ambulance in Kam-loops, which often forwards the calls to the Salmon Arm Fire Department without including the Salmon Arm Road Rescue Unit.
“The reason I am upset is we don’t like to be late for anything; it’s something I have fought against for a long time,” he said with frustration, noting the fire department is also listed as road rescue on BC Ambulance charts because they do some rescue work.
The driver of the semi-truck was uninjured.
While emergency crews were attending the first crash, another collision took place on the highway at 12:45 p.m., approximately three kilometres west of the initial collision, near Ford Road.
In that case, a motorcycle with a male driver and female passenger was headed east and collided with an eastbound pick-up truck. The motorcycle driver and passenger both sustained serious injuries and were taken by ambulance to hospital in Kamloops. The driver of the pick-up truck was not injured.
The highway was closed for a few hours, but traffic tie-ups continued into Saturday evening.
The investigation into both collisions is continuing.