A vehicle that raced through police radar on Highway 3 at high speed last Sunday was found two days later at the bottom of a steep embankment 44 kilometers further along the road.
The driver, German Santana, 65, of Victoria, was deceased at the scene, approximately 24 km west of Princeton. His body was discovered last Tuesday evening by Santana’s 34-year-old son.
The coroner’s office is now investigating the accident. According to Sergeant Barry Kennedy the Independent Investigations Office – which queries all cases where police officers are involved in incidents that result in death or serious harm – will not be called in as “there is no correlation between the accident and any actions taken by police.”
According to Kennedy an officer on patrol near Bromley Rock clocked Santana’s 2008 Ford Ranger travelling west on Highway 3 at 150 km an hour, at approximately 6:30 p.m. September 27.
While the officer engaged lights and sirens in an attempt to stop the truck, the speeding vehicle accelerated even further, and the officer did not initiate a high-speed chase.
“For the safety of the public and the safety of the driver at this point the decision was made to not pursue the vehicle,” said Kennedy. “The vehicle disappeared into the darkness and we never saw or heard anymore about it.”
Kennedy said the officer did not radio ahead to notify officers in Princeton about the speeding truck, as there was only one cruiser on duty at the time.
“The officer made the right call to pull over and not pursue the vehicle,” said Kennedy.
The following morning Princeton RCMP were notified that Santana, travelling from Osoyoos to Vancouver did not arrive at his destination. “The police recognized the license plate as the same vehicle they attempted to stop on Sunday night,” said Kennedy.
An emergency ping sent by Telus to the driver’s cell phone number indicated the phone was located somewhere within an 8.5 km range of the cellular tower on Copper Mountain and a search for instigated.
“We knew at least the phone was there,” said Kennedy, “We didn’t know whether it was thrown out a window or what happened but we knew the phone was there somewhere.”
A search for the vehicle began in the early hours of Tuesday, September 29th. “We contacted Search and Rescue,” said Kennedy. “An RCMP helicopter was not available, and they (SAR) got a plane out of Kelowna and did an aerial search throughout the day.” Kennedy said search conditions were difficult. “You’re looking at almost 70 square kilometers of trees and forest road.”
At the same time, Santana’s son was driving back and forth along Highway 3 in the search area, looking for a place a car might have disappeared over the embankment.
“He was trying to see if he could find a spot where they could have been an accident and at 7 o’clock he found his father’s vehicle.”
The truck rested 270 feet down a steep embankment, the cab separated from the frame by the force of impact. “He scurried over the embankment to go down and see if the vehicle was in fact his father’s vehicle and he located his father deceased in the vehicle.” Kennedy described the man as being distraught with grief and shock when emergency workers arrived.
The accident occurred at the top of Mine Hill.
“We don’t know when this happened,” said Kennedy. “It appears the vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed and was not able to negotiate the curve. It came into contact with the no-post, went up and over the no-post and then proceeded down the embankment into a wooded area.”