Princeton resident Pete Langois watched a disaster unfold in his rearview mirror. Langois was driving in his car ahead of a fully loaded logging truck. Just moments after a tractor trailer unit hauling a processor passed Langois going the other way, he saw it drive straight into a wall of logs.
The logging truck tilted precariously then, dumped its load at the bottom of the mine hill 14 kilometers west of Princeton on Highway #3. It spread all over the highway and there was no where for the tractor trailer truck driver to turn. Below him was a steep drop.
In seconds, Langois’ drive became a flashback of another day many years ago. Pete had lost his father in a truck accident. Langois’ heart stopped. The driver of the logging truck appeared to be okay, so Langois ran on to the second truck fearing the worst. “I was so relieved when I looked in and saw that the driver was alive,” he said. “I was really afraid, I was going to be looking in on something I didn’t want to see.”
Langois talked to the driver in the second truck. His vehicle was destroyed. Logs were scattered all over the highway and hung up on the wreckage. The driver was dazed and injured. Langois knew he had to stay with him. Calling 911 was the easy part. The rest was waiting and remembering another day …a day Pete’s dad didn’t come home.
Within minutes of the accident, Langois had B.C. Ambulance, Princeton and District Highway Extrication and the RCMP rushing to the scene. The driver of the logging truck climbed out of his truck where it lay with luck on his side. He too was alive, surviving with just a few scratches
Langois focussed on the driver of the truck bombarded with logs. The driver managed to pull his legs out from under the crushed dash of his semi. “He was in pain, but talking,” Langois stated. “I was so relieved to be listening to his voice. I thought…this guy is going to make it.”
Princeton and District Highway Extrication began the task of dismantling the truck where it was wrapped around the driver’s side. Bit by bit, twisted metal was removed using the Jaws of Life until gently they were able to widen an opening big enough to slide the back board into. With ambulance attendants helping, the first responders slowly slid the driver out of the mangled interior, down over large logs on a precarious journey.
Once the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the crew turned the ambulance around and rushed down to Princeton to meet the air ambulance. A helicopter arrived and landed in the Husky service station parking lot and whisked the patient away to the Kamloops General Hospital.
“When I got there it was a big mess, logs were strewn everywhere, two large truck units were involved and the ambulance and Highway Extrication crew were already busy,” stated RCMP Sergeant Dave Clare. “We are very fortunate to have the volunteers we have here. They did a great job getting the accident victim of the second truck extricated from the wreckage of his vehicle.”
The accident scene involved many authorities. The South Okanagan Traffic Services division of the RCMP were called in as was a traffic analyst from Penticton. “The traffic analyst reconstructs the accident,” noted Clare. “We interviewed the eye witness as well and called Work Safe B.C because this was a work related accident. Commercial vehicle Safety Enforcement (CVSE) had an inspection officer at the scene. There were a lot of people involved in the aftermath, including Argo who were there to clear the scene.”
Clare stated that the clean up and scene inspection took almost eight hours. The highway was closed for most of the day,” Clare said. “It was a long day, but a very fortunate one in many respects.
We were very fortunate there were no fatalities. The logs stopped inches away from the truck driver. It is lucky that the logs hit the ground first and that it was the truck in that situation, not a smaller vehicle. We could have very easily been at a much more tragic scene. There were no life threatening injuries. Anytime we leave a scene like that with all the victims alive, it is a really lucky day.”