British Columbia

Fatal Malahat crash renews calls for more barriers

A three-vehicle accident left at least one person dead and blocked a 17-kilometre stretch of the Malahat, Highway 1 on Vancouver Island on Wednesday morning. The accident has a local fire chief demanding more barriers on the busy route.

Fire chief: '[With barriers in place] everybody probably would have walked away from this one'

Police are at the scene of an accident that killed at least one person on the Malahat this morning. (John Rozehnal)

A three-vehicle accident, that left at least one person dead blocked a 17-kilometre stretch of the Malahat, Highway 1, on Vancouver Island on Wednesday morning.

The highway was closed in both directions from the Goldstream Provincial Park exit to Bamberton, south of Mill Bay.

One trucker who came upon the crash minutes after it happened said it looked like a head-on crash involving several cars in a section of the highway that does not have a concrete divider.

"There are two cars crashed head-on and twisted and sitting in the middle of the road," said John Rozehnal, who watched ambulances take away several crash victims.

Rozehnal drives the dangerous stretch of road on the Malahat three times a week and said he wishes there were more concrete barriers.

"I believe they make it safer. I know when I am going in a truck and there are many cars against me and there is no concrete barrier especially in the rain and the dark, it just doesn't feel so safe. I just hope I never crush anybody."

The RCMP says it expects the route will be closed until noon while investigators are at the scene. No detours are available.

The B.C. government has invested a large amount of money to try to make the highway safer in recent years by adding more concrete dividers, but serious crashes continue to close the route.

Fire chief: Barriers would have saved lives

Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson attended the scene of the collision, and while the investigation is still ongoing, he says he knows one thing: had there been concrete barriers dividing the section of highway where it happened, the outcome would have been different.

"There's not a doubt in my mind that everybody probably would have walked away from this one banged up," he said.

"I can't foresee any reason why anyone would have died on this one, because no vehicle would have crossed the centre line."

Transportation minister Todd Stone says more barriers are coming to the Malahat, but wouldn't commit to a timeline. (CBC)
About half of the Malahat has median barriers, and Transportation Minister Todd Stone says more are planned, including the area where Wednesday's crash happened.

"The corridor is much safer today than it was five years ago, 10 years ago," he said. "That's small comfort to those involved in the incident this morning for sure, and that's why we need to continue to invest."

Stone did not say when construction would start on the next round of improvements, and Patterson says the lack of a timeline is concerning to him.

"As the guy who's gotta go out and work on these people, this is all Secret Squirrel," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"I've not heard Thought One from anybody regarding any upgrades, and I'm still waiting on the other stuff that was supposed to happen on the highways. … We are way far from being done."

Patterson added that the entire Malahat needs to be divided, and it needs to be two lanes wide the entire way to keep up with increasing traffic.

A crash on the Malahat Highway tied up morning rush hour traffic on Wednesday morning. (DriveBC)

To hear the full interview with Fire Chief Rob Patterson, click the audio labelled: Fatal Malahat crash renews calls for more barriers

With files from Madeline Green, Megan Thomas and All Points West

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