British Columbia

Province investigating damage from Port Mann, Alex Fraser bridge ice bombs

ICBC says it received 40 calls from drivers who say their cars were damaged by falling ice and snow while driving over the Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridges on Monday.

Drivers claim damage occurred during Monday's snowstorm in Metro Vancouver

Falling slush from the Port Mann Bridge hit the car Dave Strobel was in on Dec. 5, 2016. (Dave Strobel)

The provincial government says it does not have any concrete answers for why its contractors were not able to prevent snow and slush from damaging vehicles crossing both the Alex Fraser and Port Mann bridge on Monday.

So far, ICBC says it received 40 calls from drivers who say their cars were damaged by falling ice and snow while driving over the two bridges. 

"We are not happy at all that vehicles were damaged by falling snow and ice. Driver and traveller safety is our top priority," said Transportation Minister Todd Stone. "We are committed to working with TI Corp. and our contractors to make sure the bridge remains safe to cross all the time."

Investigation underway

Stone said the Ministry of Transportation is still investigating. But did acknowledge that it's possible the 'de-icer should have been applied more frequently' and that could have prevented some of the build-up that ended up falling onto vehicles below.

B.C.'s Transportation Minister Todd Stone (CBC News)

ICBC is reviewing the claims, and it appears most are for windshield damage and a few for hood or roof damage.

 These claims — 30 from the Alex Fraser bridge and 10 from the Port Mann — came in while Metro Vancouver experienced its first major snowfall in nearly three years. 

The provincial government will cover the cost of the deductible for any ICBC claim involving a vehicle damaged by the falling snow and ice.

Vehicle owners must first contact ICBC to start the claim and then contact the Ministry of Transportation to receive payment for the deductible.

TI Corp., the company that operates the Port Mann Bridge, will be reimbursing tolls paid by cars damaged on Monday.

Incidents not as severe as in 2012

The Ministry of Transportation said Monday's incidents were not as severe as in 2012, when the Port Mann bridge was forced to close and a lawsuit was filed by one of the drivers whose vehicle was hit. 

Caryl-Lee Obrecht launched a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging she had to hold up the roof of her car with her legs while bleeding from the scalp so her husband could make it the rest of the way across the Port Mann bridge while ice bombs fell in 2012. (CBC)

Following that incident, the government installed new cable sweepers that could go down the cables in regular intervals, preventing the type of ice and snow buildup that caused the accidents.

Stone said since the collar system was put in place there had been no complaints of similar incidents on the Port Mann. 

Province caught off guard

Stone said the province was caught off guard by forecasts of 'very,light flurries' that were expected to taper off by Monday afternoon. 

Caryl-Lee Obrecht sued TReO over ice bombs falling from the Port Mann Bridge in 2012 she claims penetrated her vehicle and hit her in the head hard enough to make her bleed. (CBC)

"Our response has to be better than it was in this event. We have to ensure that we are mobilized with the collars earlier and I suggest we are in a position that we begin deploying the collars on the cables before there is even some snow accumulation," said Stone. 

With another storm expected on Thursday, the province will run the collar system more frequently and also increase the use of the de-icer on the Alex Fraser.

"De-icing agents are being sprayed on the cross beams on the towers to be fully ready for the next snow fall event ahead of time," said Stone. "Maintenance contractors will use anti-icing fluid on the tower to reduce the chance ice and snow will build up on them."

Stone said the province will also improve monitoring of ice and snow build-up on both the Port Mann bridge and the Alex Fraser bridge.

With files from Tamara Baluja