A six-year-old girl miraculously survived with scratches and bruises, while a 20-year-old man is fighting for his life after a Malahat crash that killed three people and sent five to hospital.
The two-car crash occurred on a straight, two-lane stretch of the highway near Whittaker Road at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
A southbound 1997 Honda CRV carrying five people lost control on the wet highway and skidded into a northbound 2003 GMC pickup carrying three adults, said Malahat Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Patterson.
The Honda's 31-year-old driver, 19-year-old front-seat passenger and 16-year-old back-seat passenger all women died at the scene. The car driver's six-year-old daughter survived. The 20-year-old man who is in hospital was also in the back seat.
The occupants' families are from Nanaimo, police said.
The truck is registered to a man in Brentwood Bay. The male driver, 52, his wife, 50, and their daughter, 26 were initially unresponsive, Patterson said.
Only the daughter has been released from Victoria General Hospital, police said.
After hearing what sounded like an explosion, Patterson ran to the edge of his backyard over-looking the highway. He saw what he thought was three cars, with one body ejected.
At the scene a little more than a minute later, Patterson discovered there were just two cars, but one was split in half. Two people were ejected from the back seat, their limbs entwined.
"I had to pull deep to get things in perspective," said Patterson, who rolled the injured man away from the dead 16-year-old girl.
As the fire chief tried to take in the scene, about 15 cars sped past in the southbound lane before the road could be closed off, he said.
"Two bodies lying entangled in the highway and they just kept travelling right past," Patterson said.
"I thought the normal reaction was to help, but these people wanted to drive past to get out of there."
Meanwhile, rescuers heard the child's screams and found her hanging by a seatbelt in the severed back portion of the Honda. It was turned on its side and likely obstructed her view of the horror, Patterson said.
The child was not in a booster seat, police said.
"It's a miracle that she survived this horrific accident," said Sgt. Rob Webb of Shawnigan Lake RCMP. "The girl has a bruised stomach and some scratches on her arm."
It was the only bit of grace in a difficult day for the victims, their friends and families, and rescuers.
"They all saw stuff they can't un-see," Patterson said.
Volunteer firefighters, including those from the Mill Bay Fire Department who were called in to help, were to meet with counsellors Monday night.
There was fog and rain at the time of the crash. Both cars were travelling at about the posted 80 km/h speed limit, police said.
The vehicles will receive mechanical inspections.
The provincial government is part way through plans to install about 5.4 kilometres of centre-line dividers along the Malahat south of Sunday's crash site.
The Transportation Ministry's long-term plan is to have median barriers on the entire length of the corridor, said Patrick Livolsi, regional director for the south coast region. The $8-million current project will go a long way to improving safety along the route, Livolsi said.
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