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Cab ‘exploded’ as truck hit tree near inn; driver critically injured

The driver of a semi-truck was listed in critical but stable condition after his vehicle smashed into a large tree outside the Red Lion Inn and Suites Thursday morning.

The driver of a semi-truck was listed in critical but stable condition after his vehicle smashed into a large tree outside the Red Lion Inn and Suites Thursday morning.

The cab of the vehicle was a twisted mess but the driver was outside and sitting on a retaining wall when Saanich police arrived about 10:50 a.m.

“He had some blood on the side of his face, but he was conscious and talking,” said Saanich police Sgt. Marc Chateau.

Chateau said police received several 911 calls saying that a northbound truck on Douglas Street had veered across the southbound lanes and into the Red Lion. Despite Douglas being a busy thoroughfare, no other vehicles were involved, and the truck — which was hauling cement — did not hit the Red Lion building.

“I don’t know what would have happened if it would have hit the building,” Chateau said.

He said police received multiple reports that more than one vehicle was trapped beneath the truck “and, luckily for everybody, there wasn’t.”

Graydon Gibson and his wife were heading south on Douglas in their Toyota Corolla as the truck began to change direction.

“Just as we came in front of the Red Lion here we noticed this massive truck cutting across us from kind of the left-turn, two-way lane,” Gibson said. “And I thought initially that he was trying to cut a corner because he was sort of heading in that direction, but he didn’t complete the turn, he just sort of went straight.

“We were just literally beside him when he hit the tree and the cab exploded. There was debris flying out at our car.”

Gibson said he pulled over and he and his wife came back and saw what had happened. The driver seemed to be fine, he said.

He described the experience as “terrifying,” saying: “If we had been 20 or 30 feet behind, those branches [on the downed tree] would have hit the car.”

Medical personnel were looking at the possibility that the driver might have had a medical issue that led to the crash, said Saanich Fire Department Capt. Tak Niketas.

“It looks like [the truck] hit the curb, bounced up, hit the tree and then flipped on its side,” he said, adding that diesel leaked from the vehicle.

Adam Wadden, a mechanic at Suburban Motors directly across Douglas Street, said he heard a huge noise and came outside to see what was going on.

“I thought there was a massive explosion, like a natural gas explosion or something like that just because of the magnitude of it,” he said. “It was unreal.”

He said he and his co-workers didn’t hear any screeching tires, “so it’s kind of weird how it happened.”

Chateau said a police crash analyst, commercial-vehicle inspectors and WorkSafe B.C. staff were at the crash site.

“At this point, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to be anything criminal,” he said.

Traffic was affected for several hours after the crash, with both southbound lanes closed until after 5 p.m. Vehicles were diverted to Saanich Road.

Also at the site were representatives from Trimac Transportation, which owns the truck.

“Obviously, our primary focus at this point is to make sure that we’re taking care of our driver,” said spokesman Kelly Neufeld. The company is working with emergency responders and will address any issues that arise, he said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com