When it comes to closing Highway 99 Sgt. Shawn LeMay has made it clear: the RCMP is very sensitive to the importance of keeping traffic moving to and from Whistler.
LeMay said this week that the highway had to be closed at Function Junction late Saturday (Jan. 28) and through the night for a number of reasons following the fatal crash that took the life of Shafiqur Rahman from Vancouver.
First, he said the initial information from the crash scene suggested explosives might be involved.
Sgt. Peter Thiessen was the senior media relations officer working Saturday night and he reported via Twitter very early Sunday morning that there was an explosion after the two vehicles involved collided.
LeMay, who heads up the RCMP operations in Whistler, said the responding officers put public safety and the safety of the personnel at the scene as the highest priority because of the explosives concern.
"We didn't really know what we were dealing with," LeMay said. Because the uncertainty and speculation that there might be dynamite on the scene the road was quickly closed to ensure nobody else was hurt.
LeMay also noted that as soon as someone is pronounced dead at a crash scene things change: "Because there was a fatality we have very strict investigational protocols, which include analyzing the scene, having specialized investigators attend to the scene in order to conduct that detailed investigation that's required."
Some of the investigators, members of the Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service (ICARS), had to come to the scene from Vancouver.
The ICARS investigators require a well-preserved scene, added LeMay — another factor in keeping the entire three lanes of highway plus the shoulder closed to traffic. The area where the crash occurred has concrete barriers on both sides of the highway with significant drops on the other side of the barriers. There is also a centre line rumble strip at the crash sight.
"It was a well-supported decision by the public to close it at Alice Lake," said LeMay. He noted that people get very frustrated if they have come from Vancouver and discover at an accident scene that they won't be able to travel the final few kilometres to Whistler because a crash investigation is underway and is expected to take many hours to complete.
A northbound newer Ford pickup truck crashed into the limo owned by Aerocar Service at about 11:30 p.m. The 54 year-old limo driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Rahman was married with two children. Doreen Ram, the Chief Financial Officer at Aerocar, said Rahman often drove the VIP customers and "was respected as an excellent and professional chauffeur" and he was popular with his co-workers.
A 19 year-old man from Calgary, whose name is not being released, was arrested in connection with the accident. Sgt. Thiessen said the unnamed suspect was taken to the medical clinic in Whistler for a short period and was then placed in RCMP custody. He has since been released and Thiessen said the RCMP is investigating to determine if charges of impaired driving can be laid as the RCMP alleges the truck driver was impaired by a drug.
"Proving someone is under the influence of drugs is more difficult than proving they are impaired by alcohol," Thiessen wrote in a news release this week.
In Vancouver fundraising efforts are underway for Rahman's family and The Province is reporting that co-workers are asking the public to contact the RCMP if they have any information about the crash or the events leading up to it.
"If anybody was with this alleged individual on the night of this tragedy, anyone who may have served him a drink, anybody this individual may have called on the phone; anything," fleet supervisor Harman Sanghera told The Province.
"If anybody saw anything, please come forward and contact RCMP, so we can bring some closure to this family who has been devastated."
Rahman was the sole provider for his family and had saved to send his son to Simon Fraser University, Sanghera said. Rahman's other son is at secondary school in Vancouver.