Multiple fatals in Williams Lake crash
Feb 9, 2012 / 6:52 pm
A collision between an SUV and a tractor trailer outside a small central British Columbia community killed multiple people and sparked an intense blaze that reduced both vehicles to shells after burning for hours, say police and a local resident.
RCMP Corp. Madonna Saunderson said the collision killed at least three and as many as six people and occurred Thursday morning on a rural stretch of Highway 97 north of McCleese Lake, which is located between Quesnel and Williams Lake
Original reports said five were killed, but Saunderson said there are conflicting numbers.
"We do know that the SUV crossed the centre line and collided with the semi," said Saunderson. "The crash resulted in a fire, we're not sure what sparked the fire. We do know that both vehicles were engulfed in flames."
She said police are unsure of how many people were inside the van.
The roads were bare, the sky, cloudy and overcast, but Saunderson said police don't know the cause of the crash.
Greg Foster, a local pub owner who is among a group of people trying to organize a volunteer fire department in McCleese Lake, said he heard about the crash while listening to a police scanner.
Foster said he jumped in his vehicle and drove to the scene, arriving at around 9:30 a.m.
Foster said he thinks emergency officials may have taken as long as 40 minutes to get there because the tiny town of 300 has no RCMP detachment or volunteer fire department.
He said junk was spread over an area of 55 to 65 metres, the semi was sprawled half onto the north-bound lane and half into a ditch and the SUV was invisible, either trapped under the semi or in front of the semi and out of view of passersby, said Foster.
"The trailer had burned up," he said. "The truck was still on fire at that time, and like I say, the materials and that kind of stuff were just (scattered) all over the highway."
The air reeked of the smell of burning oil and tires, he added.
After spending some time on scene, Foster went to an area where the community keeps a fire truck, even though it doesn't yet have a volunteer fire department, he said.
The vehicle was snowed in and inaccessible, a fact he reported to police.
Foster said he returned to the crash scene about three hours later and the vehicles were still smoldering.
He said he didn't see any survivors but talked to a truck driver who was in the waiting line of traffic and she told him the driver of the crashed truck was taken away from the scene in an ambulance.
Less fortunate were the occupants of the SUV, said Foster.
"There would have been no way they could have gotten out of that situation," he said.
Another crash occurred there years ago, when a pickup truck and semi collided, killing two.
Foster said he's lived in the community for years and has never seen anything as bad as he saw Thursday.
"This definitely the worst scene."
Earlier this week, a crash between a passenger van and a flat-bed truck killed 11 in Hampstead, Ont.
van must have been under the vehicle or under the truck.
Smoke. smelled like oil and burned tires.
The truck framing is there. Couldn't see the van or anything.
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