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Saanich man dies in Malahat crash; fire chief call for barriers

The death of a 33-year-old Saanich man in a three-vehicle crash on the Malahat Wednesday could have been prevented by a median barrier, said Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson. And he said he’s tiring of calling for safety improvements.
Malahat crash
A 33-year-old Saanich man driving a black Mazda died in a three-vehicle crash on the Malahat, north of Aspen Road, on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015.

The death of a 33-year-old Saanich man in a three-vehicle crash on the Malahat Wednesday could have been prevented by a median barrier, said Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson.

And he said he’s tiring of calling for safety improvements.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he hopes the installation of median barriers in the Malahat village area, where the crash happened, will occur within the next year.

The near head-on crash happened on the Trans-Canada Highway, just north of Aspen Road, where there is no median barrier.

B.C. Ambulance was called at 6:47 a.m. and the first of five ambulances arrived three minutes later.

A Saanich man died at the scene and three people with injuries were taken to hospital.

West Shore RCMP Const. Alex Bérubé said “the crash was caused by a traction loss, apparently due to driving too fast for the road conditions.”

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed for 17.6 kilometres in both directions from Goldstream Provincial Park to the Bamberton exit, south of Mill Bay, from about 7 a.m. to just past noon to allow “a thorough and methodical investigation,” Bérubé said.

The Malahat Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene with West Shore and Shawnigan RCMP.

Patterson said too many lives and too much time has been lost waiting for median barriers along the length of the Malahat corridor. It should be a priority for the provincial government, he said.

“Had those barricades been in place, this accident may have happened, but not to this extent. I’m sure everyone would have gone home had there been a barricade.”

Patterson said: “It was horrible. Needless. Pointless.”

Stone said his understanding “is that an individual hit some black ice and crossed over and collided with vehicles in the oncoming lanes.”

The province has spent $33 million since 2001 on median barriers along the Malahat corridor — 50 per cent of the corridor now has barriers — but this crash highlights the need for further investments in safety improvements, Stone said.

“We’ve been in design work on this particular stretch of the Malahat corridor for some time now,” he said. “My hope would be that we would be able to move forward with the installation of more barriers certainly within the next year.”

Stone said the goal is to install median barriers along most of the corridor, although there are some small sections where space limitations make it impossible. “The vast majority of what’s left on the Malahat we think is a good candidate for median barrier, and we’re going to put median barrier down as fast as we can.”

Victoria-Swan Lake NDP MLA Rob Fleming called on the province to accelerate safety improvements to the Malahat.

“Certainly, a head-on collision wouldn’t be possible if there had been barriers down that stretch of the highway,” he said. “There have been some barrier improvements, but it’s been a pretty small investment overall when you look at the past 15 years on the Malahat. Vancouver Island has been very, very patient, to say the least.”

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton, noting that Wednesday was the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims, called the Malahat crash tragic. She said 290 British Columbians lost their lives in crashes in the province last year.

“It’s a terrible thing to lose a family member in a car crash. It’s so shocking and unexpected,” Anton said. “We still had 290 last year. We need to drive that number down. What’s the right number? When it’s down to zero.”

To do that, the government is investing in road improvements and adding tougher penalties in an effort to change driver behaviours, she said.

Stone apologized to Malahat motorists for the limited transportation options due to “some very unfortunate coincidences.” Because of a severe storm, the road through Port Renfrew was down to one lane in some sections.

The Mill Bay ferry suffered mechanical issues. “Keep in mind, though, that it only carries 22 vehicles,” Stone said. “There’s 22,000 vehicles on average that go through the Malahat every single day. The Mill Bay ferry can’t really be leaned on to account for a closure of the Malahat.”

Anyone with information on the crash is urged to contact West Shore RCMP at 250-474-2264.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

lkines@timescolonist.com

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