Two people are dead and several others injured after a multi-vehicle accident closed Highway 99 north of Squamish for several hours Tuesday night, Jan. 2.
The crash between a southbound minivan and northbound pickup truck happened just before 7:30 p.m. at the Cheekye River Bridge, near the Alice Lake turnoff.
Two of the seven people travelling in the minivan were found dead at the scene, according to Const. Mike Halskov of Squamish's E-Div Traffic Services. One other person who was in the minivan is in critical condition, while two passengers sustained minor injuries, Halskov said.
The driver of the pickup also sustained minor injuries, he added.
The names of the deceased have not been released.
The Sea to Sky Highway was closed in both directions for more than eight hours while crews worked to assess and clear the accident.
Whistler's Laura Tamblyn Watts was on the highway headed home southbound at about 7:30 p.m., she said, when suddenly traffic ground to a halt. She was about 30 seconds and five vehicles behind the crash, she estimates.
She has been driving the Sea to Sky for about 20 years and had never seen the number of first responders who rushed to the scene, she said. She counted four ambulances arrive as well as Squamish Fire Rescue and RCMP, she told Pique's sister paper, The Squamish Chief, on Tuesday evening.
Tamblyn Watts added that she was impressed by how many first responders arrived on the scene so quickly.
During the more than an hour's wait in stopped traffic, Tamblyn Watts said it was touching to see how drivers helped each other out with cups of coffee and the like.
She described it as a "very Canadian experience."
After about an hour or so waiting for the road to reopen, an RCMP constable told drivers in line to turn around as the highway would remain closed for six to eight hours more.
Tamblyn Watts said she secured one of the last rooms at the Sandman Hotel in Squamish for the night. While she was being checked in, several people called the hotel asking for rooms, and at least one family was sitting in the lobby without a room for the night, she said.
"Squamish will be very busy tonight," she said, adding she felt very fortunate to be able to find a place to stay and felt terrible for the those who had more urgent reasons to travel between Squamish and Whistler.
Mostly though, she worries for the people involved in the tragic accident, she said. Because she was so close to it, the scene left her shaken.
"It puts those New Year's resolutions in perspective," she said, adding the desire to lose 10 pounds doesn't seem so important after being so close to a traumatic event.
A version of this article was published by The Squamish Chief on Jan. 3 at: http://www.squamishchief.com/news/local-news/two-dead-in-crash-north-of-squamish-that-closed-highway-for-hours-1.23134474