No one was reported killed in a five, possibly six-vehicle crash near the Kiskatinaw Bridge between Dawson Creek and Taylor on Monday.
“I come over top (of the hill), we seen lots of black smoke, then I pulled over here because a fire was going,” said Percy Meessen, one of the first people to arrive on scene.
Though he said someone else had called 9-1-1, he said he parked his truck and walked down to see if anyone was injured.
He said that from what he was told, no one had been killed, “just banged up and bruised.”
Sgt. Scott West of the Dawson Creek RCMP confirmed that no one had been killed.
“It’s my understanding that two to three people had been transported to Dawson Creek hospital suffering from non-life threatening injuries,” he said.
He noted the accident occurred shortly before 11:30 on Monday morning.
West said he’s waiting for a report from the analyst who was still on scene at 4:30 p.m.
“The preliminary investigation would reveal that... a semi truck and trailer was travelling southbound on Highway 97; it changed lanes without seeing a red southbound pickup truck, which was overtaking it,” explained West. “It hit that red pickup truck, forced it into the oncoming lane, which resulted in it having a quasi head-on collision with a semi trailer that was travelling in the northbound direction.
“Then that northbound semi truck partially disabled as a result of the collision,” he continued. “The primary collision with the red pickup crossed into southbound lanes, hitting a southbound pickup truck, which was towing a recreational vehicle, destroying the trailer, proceeding into the ditch.”
West said that “at some point and time,” as smaller pickup had become involved and rolled.
“We’re investigating how that truck became involved,” he said. “The northbound semi trailer then proceeded through the ditch, then into the trees, at which point and time, the semi trailer, the smaller pickup truck that rolled, as well as the parts of the trailer that had been hauled became involved in a fire.”
West said the semi trailer, which had forced the original red pickup into oncoming lanes, carried on its way to Dawson Creek.
“At which time it was pulled over by general duty members in Dawson Creek,” he said. “We are continuing our investigation with respect to its involvement in this collision.”
Meessen said he arrived shortly before noon and had been parked just above the accident for about two hours.
“I’m loaded with oil, so I don’t want to be near the area,” he said.
He noted his truck was too big to turn around so he was stuck. The authorities told him he’d likely be there for about six hours.
While Meessen was stopped, many were rerouted to the Old Alaska Highway, across the old wooden bridge, while big rigs were rerouted to the Braden Road. The department of transportation was directing traffic at both turns to the old highway.
Since his arrival on the scene, Meessen – who was travelling to the Taylor area from Bonanza, Alberta – said he’d been tuned into his radio since he stopped.
He said that, from what he understood, there was a red Dodge pickup that “got cut off” by a vehicle that took off.
“The truck is in the bush with rig matting on it; it caught fire,” said Meessen, while looking at the wreckage.
“It’s very lucky nobody died in here,” said Meessen.
He said when he approached the black smoke billowing, he thought death was inevitable.
“I’m a truck driver; I see lots of accidents,” he said. “Any accident’s bad, really; it’s just if people die, then it’s really bad.”
“We are sincerely glad that the injuries in this case are minor,” he said.
He noted that Dawson Creek RCMP, the integrated road safety unit and highway patrol from Fort St. John, the Taylor Fire Department, the Dawson Creek Fire Department, BC Ambulance and forestry “with their associated fire suppression expertise” all responded to the scene.
“They’re continuing their investigation at the scene,” said West at approximately 4:30 p.m. “Highway 97 remains closed at this juncture.”
He noted that to his knowledge, all of the people involved in the accident were wearing their seatbelts.
He warned that drivers should, “Slow down, pay attention, wear seatbelts.”
“When changing lanes, check your mirrors, take your time, shoulder check and then if it’s safe to do so, change lanes,” said West.
Sgt. Steve Perret of the Fort St. John RCMP said it was the Dawson Creek detachment who took the call about this accident, but agreed that safe driving was important.
“At this time of year with summer and great weather, you’ve got a lot more people on the highway,” said Perret. “With good weather often comes increased speed as well.
“With the amount of vehicle traffic at this time of year, really, if you factor out over a long trip, you’re really only going to save a few minutes,” he said. “Really, what it boils down to is to give yourself lots of time to get to your destination.”
Perret noted that there’s also a lot of commercial traffic and motor homes and recreational vehicles on the highway at this time of years.
“You go flying up the road, and inevitably you’re just going to end up behind a slow-moving vehicle anyway,” he said.
Perret recommends that drivers “slow down, keep your distance, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and just relax and enjoy the nice weather.”
He also pointed out that increased speed slows reaction times.
“It takes you longer to react to a situation on the road and you’re just putting yourself at increased risk unnecessarily,” said Perret.
Meessen said high speeds were the norm on the Alaska Highway because of the industry that drives the region.
“It’s a bad highway,” he said. “It’s the nature of the jobs out here – it’s the Indy 500.”
The Alaska Highway was reopened at around 12 a.m. on Tuesday.