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Man dies during 12-hour highway jam

Motorists frustrated with lack of information

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For Whistler residents and travellers last Thursday was the “perfect storm”.

The much-anticipated snowfall was headed our way, but so were drivers ill equipped to deal with the conditions.

In the end, when the two collided it resulted in at least two serious accidents, several smaller ones, highway slow downs and closures, which meant snowplow equipment couldn’t get in to keep the road clear and move motorists blocking traffic.

Added to that, said many of those stuck in traffic, was the lack of information they perceived they were getting from Mountain FM.

It all started around 1:45 p.m. Dec. 14 when two vehicles collided head-on near Brandywine Falls. Both drivers were seriously injured, and the highway had to close both directions for about three and a half hours as emergency services dealt with the accident.

The highway finally re-opened to single-lane traffic.

By then the snow was falling fast and furious. In total about 61 centimetres fell overnight last Thursday.

But just as it looked like traffic could get going again a semi-tractor unit with a full load of concrete jack-knifed on a slippery hill north of Brandywine Falls, blocking both lanes at around 7:30 p.m.

With vehicles lined up bumper-to-bumper it was impossible for snowplowing and sanding to take place. The highway turned into a parking lot.

Then at 9 p.m. police were told a man was suffering a heart attack in the traffic jam. Two doctors were also in the lineup and gave the yet-to-be-named 63-year-old man CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman in labour and a man in respiratory distress were also stuck in the highway lineup. Following behind a snowplow, ambulances were able to get to both people and evacuate them.

But it meant that cars and trucks had to pull off the main lane and onto the snowy shoulder. Many of the vehicles were unable to get out when they were finally allowed to move, or blocked traffic once again as they tried.

It wasn’t until 11 p.m. that snowplows were able to forge through the sea of stuck vehicles and create a lane for alternating traffic at the site of the cement truck accident.

For those lucky enough to be at the front of the lineup it was then slow but smooth driving home to Whistler.

But as drivers began to flow into Whistler trouble lay ahead thanks to the undulating highway between Function Junction and the village. Soon cars were spinning out of control blocking traffic in both directions.

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