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Three dead, five injured as horrific Malahat collision leaves rescue personnel shaken

A tow truck operator prepares to remove the wreckage of a vehicle torn in half in a tragic crash on the Malahat Sunday. - courtesy Malahat Fire Rescue
A tow truck operator prepares to remove the wreckage of a vehicle torn in half in a tragic crash on the Malahat Sunday.
— image credit: courtesy Malahat Fire Rescue

Three females were killed, and five people were injured after what may be Cowichan's worst traffic accident in years.

A shaken Rob Patterson, chief of Malahat's Volunteer Fire Hall, said the triple-tragedy happened at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday during a two-vehicle cross-over crash along a non-median section of Malahat Drive near Whittaker Road.

The head-on crash saw a southbound Honda SUV, containing five people, cross the centre line and hit a northbound Chev pick-up truck holding three passengers.

Names of deceased hadn't been released by press time Tuesday, while the wreck's exact was still under investigation.

The rain-soaked highway reopened at about 5:30 p.m. after being closed in both directions for some six hours as police re-routed traffic along Shawnigan Lake Road, south-end.

"It's the worst (fatality) I've ever attended," said Patterson.

"The driver of the Honda SUV was killed, as well as the female front passenger, and the female in the rear passenger seat who was ejected from the car," Shawnigan Lake RCMP Sgt. Rob Webb says in a media release.

"A 20-year-old male was also ejected and taken to Victoria General Hospital with life-threatening injuries. He remains there in critical condition. A six-year-old girl, who was wearing her seatbelt, is described as a miracle for surviving this horrific crash."

Passengers, all adults, from the 2003 pickup truck were treated at hospital and released, Webb says.

Patterson and his crew awaited the coroner to confirm the three deaths before two bodies were removed from the totalled 1997 Honda SUV.

Identities of all eight people — including five from the silver Honda — had not been released by press time.

The injured girl from the Honda, plus a passenger from the 2003 brown pick-up, were airlifted by medivac helicopter to Victoria hospital.

The male ejected from the Honda was taken by ambulance to Victoria hospital, chief Patterson explained of the wreck at what he called NASCAR Corner — near where Whittaker, leading to the Aerie luxury resort, reaches the highway.

"It's very much a high-speed crash at NASCAR Corner.

"The Chevy driver put his truck in the ditch to avoid the oncoming (Honda) vehicle, but was unsuccessful.

"The Honda SUV four-door was torn in half when it crossed the line and hit the truck."

That happened just north of Whittaker where the highway narrows into one lane "and everyone jockeys for position to get ahead of people," he described.

First responders — including the lead Malahat hall, and back-up crews from Mill Bay's hall — plus police and paramedics attended the tragedy that closed the busy highway.

Two sets of Jaws of Life were used to remove people from the mangled wreckage that disturbed officials present, including Patterson's members who were to discuss trauma counselling Monday.

"Most people have never seen anything like this," the veteran chief said after dealing with Sunday's carnage. "This is the worst we've had.

"It's a difficult job, but it's what we're trained to do.

"You have to put it into perspective. We're there to help," he said, praising his crew, and Mill Bay's volunteer firefighters.

"I'm so thankful for the crew I have; they're second to none.

"And my God, (Mill Bay members) they're absolutely professional — it's an incredible brotherhood we're part of."

Witnesses can call the Shawnigan Lake RCMP at 250-743-5514.

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