Kenneth Plunet believes he was inches from death.
And his experience with a near miss on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Tappen Co-op, coupled with the fact that there was a serious collision there the week before, has prompted him to take action.
Plunet is writing every government official and organization he can think of, sharing his story and calling for upgrades to what he calls a danger zone on the single-lane section of the Trans-Canada Highway between the Tappen Esso and the Tappen Co-op.
Plunet and his partner Carrie Raylan were heading east into Salmon Arm on Wednesday, March 5 at 1:30 p.m. when an oncoming semi truck swerved into their lane to avoid rear-ending a car that was turning into the Tappen Co-op. There are no turn lanes into either the Tappen Co-op or the Tappen Esso.
“It was a very, very close call,” he says. “I could see the grill of the truck coming right at us and my wife and I we both had the same thought, that we were going to die.”
Both Plunet and the truck driver swerved, narrowly missed colliding.
A similar situation took place Feb. 19, which resulted in a 26-year-old Enderby woman requiring an airlift to hospital. While expected to survive, her injuries are serious.
“All this taxpayers’ money going into the highway widening, but they don’t seem to be doing it where it is most needed,” says Plunet. “This is a notorious spot for accidents. Why are they not doing the danger zones first?”
And Plunet was not the only recent near miss. Mandy Davis was driving her 10-year-old daughter into Salmon Arm for a dance class when a semi-truck also swerved into her lane and she managed to veer into the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision.
“People who live out this way, we know it happens so much. I’m always prepared for something at that stretch of road, you have to be.”
The provincial government has made a $650-million commitment to improve the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border over the next 10 years. The current plans posted on the website, however, make no mention of four-laning the Tappen section.
This doesn’t mean it could not become a priority. In an email from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, a spokesperson says, “Highway 1 near Tappen is one of the sections being considered for upgrade through this $650 million program.”
It goes on to say the projects are prioritized based on safety and mobility benefits. They note planning and engineering work is underway for other sections of the corridor, in addition to work currently underway at Monte Creek and Hoffman’s Bluff, but did not comment on whether the Tappen section is being planned or engineered.
ICBC reports there were 33 crashes in the section of the highway between Tappen Valley Road and Sunnybrae Canoe Point Road between 2008 and 2012, which is the most recent data available. Eleven of the 33 collisions occurred directly at, or in front of, the Tappen Esso and the Tappen Co-op.
Staff at the Tappen Co-op know the safety issues well.
“We hear the horns honking, we hear the sirens, we hear the comments from our customers about their close calls,” says Andy Munro, who has been manager of the gas bar and convenience store for nearly two years. During that time he can recall three serious collisions, just off the top of his head.
A group of Co-op staff attended a public forum held in February 2013 to outline their concerns about the area. At that time, nothing in the ministry’s presentation indicated the Tappen section would be getting any upgrading.
“We went and we asked, but we really got the impression this strip was not on their radar for any time soon,” said Munro.
“We know it can affect our business because people just don’t want to risk making the turn. Even myself, sometimes, I will drive by and then turn around, so I don’t have to turn left to get in here.”