A 54-year-old Vancouver limo driver died in a head on crash on the Sea to Sky highway Saturday (Jan.28) just south of Function Junction.
Initial conclusions suggest that a pick-up truck crossed the centre line and hit the limo, which was heading south at about 11:30 p.m. Limo driver Shafiqur Rahman, 54, of Vancouver was the sole occupant.
The 19-year-old driver of the pick-up truck is being investigated for driving while impaired by drugs.
Rahman was driving for a Richmond-based company called Aerocar Service. Doreen Ram, Aerocar’s Chief Financial Officer , confirmed the identity of the limo driver. She reported in a news release that Rahman was the father of two sons.
"Mr. Rahman was respected as an excellent and professional chauffeur, who was well liked by his fellow chauffeurs, Aerocar’s staff and all who knew him, " Ram wrote in the news release.
She also noted that chauffeurs who worked with Rahman have come together to fundraise on behalf of his family.
According to RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen, the teen from Calgary was driving a newer model Dodge pick-up truck. Thiessen said Rahman’s limousine exploded and was engulfed in flames.
"I had my sliding door open and was just going to close it when I heard the boom," reported Function Junction resident Naomi Boyd. "There was a distinctive metal crunch sound to it along with a huge boom and the building I live in shook."
She said there was silence until she heard sirens.
"I knew right away it was going to be bad, I've never heard anything quite like it," Boyd said.
The pick-up truck driver is being treated for serious, but not life-threatening injuries, in hospital.Tthe accident, which closed the highway for eight hours, is being investigated by RCMP members from Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver.
The Highway reopened for traffic in both directions at 7:15 a.m. Sunday morning.
"This is a terrible tragedy that resulted in the death of an innocent driver," said Thiessen. "The family of the deceased victim has been affected for a lifetime and will never be the same."
This is the first fatal crash of 2012 on Highway 99.
Meanwhile Whistler RCMP is continuing to ask for the public's help in locating missing DJ Mike Grefner.
They are hoping to talk with a woman who possibly had coffee with Grefner at a coffee shop on Pemberton on the morning of Jan.19.
Police are also asking for help identifying the owner or driver of a white Jeep that was seen parked and idling close to Grefner's Rainbow residence between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. also on Jan.19.
"Investigators have said that the updates and information provided by friends via the Facebook site have been very instrumental in assisting investigators with this case, certainly with respect to putting a time-line together on Michael's activities leading up to his disappearance," said Sgt. Shawn Lemay of Whistler's RCMP.
To date, Whistler RCMP has received up to 15 tips, all of which have been followed-up on by investigators.
Police have searched the residential subdivision, and nearby trail system with an avalanche trained search (CARDA) dog, but were not able to locate any indication of Grefner's whereabouts as yet. On January 25th, starting shortly after 10:00 a.m., approximately 20 of Grefner's friends and concerned citizens gathered in the Function Junction area of south Whistler to search a number of sites along the train tracks where they felt Michael had possibly wandered off to. The search did not yield any results.
Grefner was last seen in the early morning hours of January 17, 2012, at a nightclub in Whistler Village. He did not show up for work the following evening, which is extremely out of character for him. After making attempts to locate Michael on their own, his friends and colleagues reported him missing to police shortly after midnight on the 19th.
He is described as a Caucasian male, 34 years of age, 6'2", with a slim build. He has short curly brown hair, green eyes, an olive complexion, and is clean shaven.
If anyone has seen Grefner since Jan. 16, 2012 or had contact with him in the days leading up to his disappearance, you are requested to call Whistler RCMP at (604) 932-3044.
-with files from Clare Ogilvie and Stephen Smysnuik