Tragedy on the highway: parents plead for barrier

The parents of a 24-year-old man who died this month on a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Langford are joining the call for safety improvements between Leigh Road and West Shore Parkway.

Thomas Lindenau was in a northbound car that was involved in a head-on collision near the Leigh Road overpass on Feb. 3. There was another fatal crash in the same area Jan. 8.

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“Something needs to be done now, definitely,” said his father, Mark, from the family home in Courtenay.

He said he hopes the recent incidents will provide impetus for change that will prevent further tragedy.

“We don’t want any other family to suffer this type of loss,” he said.

“I don’t want our son’s death to be in vain.”

Mother Jennifer said Thomas, an older brother to Trinity and Christopher, touched many lives.

“He was born with an old soul, with a pure soul,” she said. “He always had this empathy and love for everybody and concern for everybody, and he would give the shirt off of his back.

“He just left a positive legacy for anyone who ever knew him.”

The Lindenaus travelled from Courtenay last week to speak with Langford Mayor Stew Young, who is a vocal proponent of the need to fix that stretch of highway.

Young said the family reached out to him to ask what would be done with the highway, particularly the addition of concrete barriers separating north and south lanes.

“I feel for them,” he said. “I said that the barriers should have been there three years ago, 31Ú2 years ago. The study and design work was approved and budgeted for.”

Young said he thinks the work should be prioritized by the provincial government.

“Everybody I talk to says: ‘Get the barrier up, get the barrier up’ because two deaths in three weeks — that should be a red flag,” he said. “There’s no guarantee it won’t happen again.

“It’s the most dangerous part of this highway.”

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Drivers navigate a curve on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Leigh Road overpass. - DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

He said there have been 40 crashes on that stretch over the past two years.

“The drivers are white-knuckling now when they go through there because of what’s happened.”

Jennifer said she and Mark are finding out how many people knew Thomas as they prepare for his memorial service on March 3.

“We don’t even know if we have space for everyone who’s coming.”

She said the death hit people hard, including the mechanic’s shop where Thomas was employed. “When they found out, they actually had to close the shop because nobody could work.”

Mark said he and Jennifer would like to talk to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

“We’re hoping that the minister of transportation will reach out to us,” he said. “We’re eager to speak to the minister of transportation because it’s important for our healing and to get some sort of meaning out of this death.”

After the crash that killed Thomas, the ministry sent an email that said it plans to widen the highway and add concrete barriers, but it gave no timeline.

Young said barriers are in place in many other locations and should be placed where the crashes have been happening. Barriers save lives, he said.

“That’s what was said when we announced the design work; it was to save lives.”

Young called for the tender for the barrier work to go out immediately. He said land around the portion of road being debated is relatively cheap.

“Langford will never zone housing along that highway or anything,” Young said. “It’s excess land right now.“This is not an issue that should be dragged out for any reason whatsoever.”

He also called for federal funding, since the Trans-Canada is a national highway.

“The federal government has done nothing in Langford for four years,” Young said. “Zero dollars for highway improvement.

“They’ve spent money all over Ontario, Quebec.”

The local situation deserves action, he said.

“There’s no more compelling case to spend our tax dollars on a safety issue because you don’t want another tragedy on that highway.”

West Shore RCMP Insp. Todd Preston and Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey have expressed their support for barriers in a letter to Young.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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