Family, friends recall victim of SUV rollover near Port Alberni

Family and friends are grieving the death of Connor Gagnon of Port Alberni, who died early Friday after the sports utility vehicle he was in slid off a Vancouver Island logging road and down a 75-metre cliff to a river.

“He was a good man with a kind heart,” Daniel Marcus George said. “And he will be dearly missed.”

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Gagnon, 24, was in an SUV carrying seven people that was travelling along Cameron Main logging road, off the Port Alberni Highway, when it left the roadway, rolling over several times down a cliff before coming to rest on its side in the river.

A page for Gagnon on social media says he had worked at Catalyst Works at Catalyst Paper Corporation since September 2018. Catalyst could not be immediately reached.

Gagnon’s online profile also said he attended Alberni District Secondary School.

The vehicle he was in was headed toward Mount Arrowsmith, the largest mountain on southern Vancouver Island. The crash occurred near Bainbridge Lake. Emergency services were called early Friday morning.

Four of the SUV’s occupants had scrambled up the embankment by the time RCMP officers arrived.

Firefighters and search-and-rescue volunteers also responded. Firefighters scaled down the embankment to reach Gagnon, who was the farthest down the cliff, in the river bed.

Gagnon was located in water “in serious medical distress,” police said. He was taken to West Coast General Hospital, then flown by B.C. Air Ambulance to Victoria General Hospital. He later died of his injuries.

Two more people were about 45 metres down the bank. They were treated for their injuries at the scene, then taken to West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni, said Port Alberni RCMP Const. Chris Manseau.

Preliminary evidence and witness accounts suggest poor road conditions were a factor in the rollover crash, police said.

Officers from the Vancouver Island Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service continue to investigate.

The driver of the SUV is co-operating with the police investigation, and “it appears alcohol was not a factor” in the crash, Manseau said.

The B.C. Coroners Service said Monday it continues to investigate.

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