One motorist is dead after a six-vehicle crash Monday on Highway 97 south of Prince George.
The incident happened at about 1 p.m. near the community of Woodpecker, not far from Hixon.
"Initial indication is that a northbound tractor-trailer with a load of lumber collided head on with an empty southbound tractor-trailer," RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass explained. "Two pickup trucks were then struck, one of them going down a 10-metre embankment. Two other tractor-trailers went off road to avoid the collision."
The driver of one of the tractor-trailer units involved in the original collision was pronounced dead at the scene, Douglass said. Three other drivers were transported by ambulance to the University Hospital of Northern BC for treatment of unknown injuries. None of the victims were identified Monday.
The highway was closed for the remainder of Monday and was not expected to be reopened until sometime Tuesday morning. A detour route was established but motorists were warned that the pace of travel would be slower than usual.
In addition to the collection of forensic evidence, a large cleanup effort was required. The three-lane segment of the highway was completely covered in lumber, spread over a 200-metre area.
"We don't know the cause, but we know that snow was accumulating; the weather was likely a factor," Douglass said, adding that it was also an obstacle for rescuers at the scene to overcome the soft, wet roadsides and steep banks.
Douglass urged motorists to drive with extreme caution, being mindful of the weather system moving through the area.
"There was a lot of snow and some crosswinds, but it wasn't a blizzard," he said. "Drivers need to consider the road conditions as they go. On my way to this tragedy I saw other people driving too fast, passing vehicles that were going at appropriate speeds, and some of them were bigger trucks that end up blowing a wake of snow and blinding other motorists. It's too bad that people are in such a hurry in these conditions. It is frustrating."
So slippery was the area that a grader went off the highway not far from the crash scene, and one of the tractor-trailer units that avoided the collision was spun completely around to face the opposite direction in the ditch.