Communication breakdown: No phone service for emergencies on Hwy 3
No cell service in the area of Monday's fatal crash; 2 pay phones removed years ago
After a fatal crash that closed Highway 3 for hours this week, people living along the dangerous stretch of road between Hope and Princeton are pleading for better phone service to connect with first responders.
One woman was killed Monday afternoon in the dramatic crash about 10 kilometres east of Hope, an area that has no cellphone service or pay phones where people can call for help.
The Sunshine Valley Volunteer Fire Department is just two kilometres from the crash site, but the fire hall didn't receive any calls about the emergency, according to firefighter Steve Smith.
He said the fire department is fully equipped to respond to fatal collisions and rescues of any kind, but still relies on pagers to receive calls.
"The issue is that there's people out there and people in the valley here that are totally unable to get a hold of us," Smith said.
"People have to drive for 15 to 20 minutes — up to a half hour — to come and get us."
Pay phones removed
People who live or have summer homes on the treacherous stretch of highway between Princeton and Hope say that up until about eight years ago, there were two Telus pay phones at the side of the road, but they have since been removed.
Realtor Walter Rawlinson told CBC News that he has campaigned to convince Telus to replace them, with no luck.
"We certainly weren't happy about it, because the pay phones were being used — maybe not heavily — but they were being used for more emergency situations," he said.
A Telus spokeswoman has yet to respond to requests for comment.
Serious crashes are not uncommon in the Sunshine Valley area, according to Rawlinson, and because his office is close to the highway, he's often the first to hear about it.
"It's quite common for people to be banging on my doors at all hours of the evening because of an emergency on the highway," he said.
In some cases, locals have had to improvise in order to call for help.
Ruth Hammond, who has a cabin in Sunshine Valley, recalls responding to a fatal ATV crash a few years back.
"We had to communicate the condition of the people who were on the quad by yelling it up the street to people who were talking on a landline," she said.
Monday's crash closed the highway for nine hours, leaving the occupants of a couple hundred vehicles stranded without any way to reach their loved ones.
Hammond said she visited the crash scene and took phone numbers from a few of those people so that she could make calls on their behalf from her landline.
"I do believe that a pay phone would make a difference for a lot of people in this area, because this is a treacherous highway," she said.
Police search for suspect
Meanwhile, officers are still looking for a suspect in the fatal collision, which saw an SUV crash into a highway maintenance vehicle. The female passenger of the SUV was killed in the impact.
The SUV's driver is accused of stealing a bystander's truck and fleeing the scene in the direction of Hope. Anyone who sees him is asked to call 911.
With files from Tina Lovgreen