Seeking answers after a Highway 95 crash that killed three men near Brisco in early 2011, a three-day BC Coroners Service inquest wrapped up in Invermere on Wednesday, March 29th.
Nearly 20 witnesses were called over the course of the inquest, which produced four recommendations:
• In the future, if the Trans Canada Highway is closed for any length of time and Highway 95 is used as the alternate route, Highway 95 should be deemed a Class A highway.
• An acceleration and deceleration lane should be built at the Spillimacheen Rest Area.
• Considering the location of Highway 95, the speed limit should be reduced to 90 kilometres per hour between Golden and Radium.
• When Highway 95 is used as an alternate route, portable road information signs should be placed south of Golden and north of Radium Hot Springs.
Before taking their leave, the jury heard presiding coroner Chico Newell’s thoughts on the matter. He suggested more public awareness campaigns around winter highway driving and a further study on the impacts of the re-routing Trans Canada Highway traffic could help prevent another accident like the one that ocurred on January 19th, 2011.
Chul Lee, Kwang Cha and Chungjic Koh were tragically killed when their southbound sedan was struck first by a logging truck, then by a Super B tractor trailer. The accident took place during an average winter day, with cold and clear weather and compact snow on the highway. At the time, avalanche control being carried out on the Trans Canada Highway meant significant traffic volumes were diverted onto Highway 95.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, March 26th, commercial vehicle inspector Ken Squarebriggs described the scene he witnessed as he came upon the scene while en route to Golden.
The driver’s side of a 1996 Oldsmobile sedan was folded in, with the steering column pushed onto the passenger side of the vehicle, he said. A rotor was also destroyed.
“It takes a lot of direct, straight impact to break a rotor like that ,” he said.
An inquest is a formal court process that allows for public presentation of evidence relating to a death, in which the goal is not to find blame, but to shed light on how to prevent futrure accidents.