By Clare Ogilvie
A serious accident between a bus and a logging truck brought traffic on Highway 99 to a standstill Monday.
It was the second day in a row the Sea to Sky Highway had to be closed to travellers. On Sunday a massive landslide north of Horseshoe Bay closed the road for seven hours.
Monday’s accident happened about two kilometres south of Function Junction around 1 p.m. It appeared that the southbound logging truck lost its load as it rounded a right turn corner on the highway.
RCMP is investigating the accident, along with Ministry of Transportation and commercial vehicle inspectors.
“The cause of the accident is under investigation and the RCMP have secured witness statements from persons who would have observed the logging truck prior to impact,” said Inspector Norm McPhail Monday.
“With the scene investigation and the information from witnesses we will make a determination as to whether charges are applicable.”
The RCMP’s local reconstruction analyst, who is based in Squamish, attended the scene, along with an analyst from Chilliwack and Langley.
Initially investigators had said they would need to close the road for up to three hours but it was decided that traffic had to be able to get through, especially after Sunday’s highway closure.
“I said there is no way we are closing that highway for three hours,” said McPhail. “We are on that stuff and we are trying our best. The reader boards help a bit and the partners have stepped up as well.”
Whistler-Blackcomb had notices on their information boards so travellers could plan their departure.
Vancouver radio station CKNW was also informed so that drivers heading up to Whistler could change their plans if need be.
“What we have been trying to do is be more preventative in terms of people getting onto the road, let’s get on top of that one, as opposed to having them sitting there creating an issue for themselves and for us while we are out there,” said McPhail.
Two-inch gouges could be seen where the truck’s rigging dug into the pavement as it screeched to a halt along the road.
The driver of the logging truck sustained minor injuries.
The logs the truck carried, some at least a metre in diameter, fell into the northbound lane hitting a Gray Line bus head-on as it traveled toward the resort.
It took emergency services more than half an hour to cut the driver from the bus. He suffered serious injuries, especially to his legs. He was taken by ambulance to the Whistler Health Care Centre and was expected to be transferred to Vancouver.
There were no passengers on the bus.
The bus was heading to Whistler to “fulfill a wintertime contract we have with Greyhound to provide some relief service to transport some passengers back from Whistler to Vancouver,” said Gray Line spokesperson Ian Robertson.
Gray Line is part of the Armstrong Group, which runs the popular Rocky Mountaineer trains through the Rockies and to Whistler.
Within an hour of the 1 p.m. accident the highway was opened to alternating one-way traffic. However, a few hours later RCMP traffic accident investigators had to close the highway to gather information and to facilitate the removal of the logs, which had fallen into the highway lanes.
Alternating traffic was allowed down the highway by about 5 p.m. But the highway continued to be closed, off and on, until after 8 p.m., leaving a trail of vehicles backed up all the way to Creekside.
For many drivers the highway closure two days in a row was really beginning to grate on nerves.
Said one driver: “I’m really sorry for the people in the accident, but this is just too much. This is the second day I have tried to get to the city. What do we have to do, buy planes to get in an out of town now?”