News

Malahat crash claims 76-year-old man

A car teeters on the edge of a barrier during Wednesday
A car teeters on the edge of a barrier during Wednesday's crash on the Malahat.
— image credit: courtesy Rob Patterson

A Port Alberni man is dead, and two women are in Victoria hospital, after Wednesday night’s head-on collision along an unguarded stretch of Malahat Drive, police say.

Malahat fire chief Rob Patterson — whose crew was helped by Mill Bay’s members — said the soggy commuter turnpike near Split Rock was closed and rerouted for about five hours by the 5 p.m. wreck that left a car teetering on a concrete barrier bordering a dark cliff.

The tragedy’s cause could have been a medical condition, police say.

“One vehicle was northbound, and one vehicle was southbound — someone crossed the line,” Patterson said, calling for barriers to prevent more crashes on the ‘Hat.

Wednesday’s wreck saw a southbound Toyota Sienna van cross the centre line, swiping a northbound Dodge Caravan, cops said.

The Sienna then hit, head-on, a northbound Honda Accord driven by a 58-year-old Crofton female.

She was pinned in the car left perched near the cliff.

The Sienna’s 76-year-old male was  extricated by firefighters, but he died in hospital. His injured wife was expected to be released from hospital Thursday, RCMP said.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP Sgt. Rob Webb said the Crofton woman suffered multiple fractures and is in serious but stable condition.

Patterson said she sustained severe leg injuries inside her demolished Honda. She’d likely be dead if fire crews hadn’t balanced the sedan to keep it from plunging 100 metres while gingerly freeing what the veteran chief called the “non-responsive” woman.

“It was too close. It’s a steep, 50-degree slope with rocks and trees,” he said. “It would not have been pretty.”

It took firefighters wielding the Jaws of Life an hour or more to extricate her by “nibbling away” at parts of the Accord.

The now-deceased male driver of the nearby Sienna suffered what Patterson described as “serious” lower-extremity injuries.

“He was our number-one priority,” he said of the Alberni senior.

His wife was dazed but “talkative” at the scene, said Patterson.

Meanwhile, scores of north- and south-bound vehicles braved narrow, winding South Shawnigan Road around the stretch of highway blacktop blocked by fire crews.

The deadly incident left Patterson demanding completed Malahat centre medians.

“It just irks me,” he said, shaking his head at rock-snagging wire being hung along the ‘Hat’s sheer walls.

“Fifteen years here, and I’ve never had a rock land on a car, but we’ve done hundreds of vehicle extrications.” Crash witnesses are asked to call Shawnigan Lake RCMP at 250-743-5514.

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