Kispiox Bridge reopens after village in northwestern B.C. temporarily cut off
Photos showed broken timbers along the length of the wooden bridge
The Kispiox Bridge north of Hazelton reopened to passenger vehicles on Saturday night, two days after it was badly damaged, leaving a small community cut off.
Hundreds of people were unable to move in and out of their community after the bridge was damaged by a snowplow Thursday morning.
Photos sent to CBC showed broken timbers along the length of the wooden Kispiox Bridge.
The bridge is the only way for vehicles to get in and out of Kispiox Village, a First Nations community of about 750 people, 300 kilometres northeast of Prince Rupert. Helicopters were put on standby for people stranded in the area of northwest British Columbia in the event of an emergency.
In a release, Dawson Road Maintenance said one of its snowplows "clipped several of the wood bridge's vertical support structures with a wing blade, causing structural damage."
The bridge is now open to passenger vehicles and other vehicles less that weigh less than eight tonnes. Traffic is currently single lane and alternating, and there are no detours available at this time for heavier vehicles.
The bridge remains open to pedestrians.
"Ministry engineers and crews are working around the clock to reopen the bridge to all traffic as quickly as possible," said a statement from the province.
According to an earlier Facebook post by Kispiox band manager Blanka Jecminkova, the bridge deck has been shifting and cracking.
Witness Sadie Johnson was on her way to work when she saw the snowplow drive onto the one-lane bridge with the plow blade still down.
"When the blade hit the bridge the whole bridge shook," said Johnson.
"It did damage to the beginning of the bridge but he didn't stop. He kept going and he hit three other beams in the middle of the bridge. It looked like he was going to stop and pull the blade up but he still kept going and hit the tail end of the bridge."
Johnson said she crossed the bridge in her vehicle right after the snowplow, and then watched a school bus drive across.
"We had no idea it had shifted a metre underneath," she said. "It was only later I learned they had to shut it down because of major damage."
- An earlier version of this story said high school students from Kispiox Village attend high school in Kispiox. In fact, they attend high school in Hazelton.Feb 05, 2021 5:37 PM PT
With files from Nicole Oud and Andrew Kurjata