British Columbia

Angry motorists berate first responders at fatal crash scene on Malahat

RCMP officers had to step in yesterday to protect first responders from angry motorists at the scene of a fatal accident on the Trans Canada Highway outside Victoria.

First responders 'berated' over highway closure as they tried to save injured man

The driver of a van died following the collision with a pick-up truck at this intersection on the Malahat Drive section of the Trans-Canada Highway. (Google Maps)

RCMP officers had to step in yesterday to protect first responders from angry motorists at the scene of a fatal accident on the Trans Canada Highway outside Victoria.

Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson said first responders were being berated by angry motorists as they struggled to save the life of a grievously injured man.

"This is probably the first time I've had to involve the RCMP in a bit of crowd control," Patterson said.

Frustrated drivers argued that there was no reason to close the highway and accused first responders of "just being a pain in the backside," Patterson said.

Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson said RCMP had to be called in for crowd control as drivers, angry about the highway closure, berated first responders. (CHEK News)

"They don't realize I guess that it's a crime scene, that somebody is in very serious condition and they have to figure out what happened," he said. "And if they keep driving through and over the scene, the traffic analysts are not able to determine how it happened."

The two-vehicle crash occurred just before 5 p.m. on the Malahat Drive near the Mountain Meadows RV Park and Campground, when a van was T-boned by a pick-up truck.

The pick-up driver was injured but able to walk away from his vehicle.

"The other driver was much more of a concern for us," Patterson said.

"They had to remove him from the vehicle and perform CPR immediately," he said. "From that point we closed the highway as best we could."

Motorists ignored barriers

The road closure didn't stop some motorists from trying to get around the barriers.

"At that point things just got a little crazy for my crew," Patterson said, with "cars still driving through and around the scene while they tried patient management."

One man died following a two-vehicle crash Oct. 27 on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park and Campground. (Google Maps)

The cause remains under investigation, but witnesses at the scene say the crash happened when the van pulled over to the shoulder and then attempted to make a left turn across lanes of traffic. It was hit by a pickup truck that was also travelling north.

Victim lived at RV park

 Art Lawrence, who manages the Malahat Mountain RV Park, says the driver of the van lived at the park and was attempting to turn into the driveway.

"You are not supposed to turn left from that side of the highway," Lawrence said. "There's no left turning lane there. And the sign a little further up the road says exactly that.

The section of road where the crash happened will soon have a barrier that will prevent illegal left turns.

Safety improvements underway

The province is spending $34 million to expand the highway to four lanes from the Shawnigan Lake exit to Aspen Road. Median barriers will also be installed.

The work is expected to start early next year and will be finished in 2018.

"People make poor choices when driving," Patterson said. "They get distracted for whatever reason and they have an event. It's tough to deal with."

The highway reopened to single-lane alternating traffic around 7:30 p.m., and fully opened a few hours later.

Officer appeals for patience

In an opinion piece published in the Victoria Times Colonist  last year, RCMP Cpl. Darren Lagan appealed to motorists to show patience with the police officers and other emergency personnel at crash scenes.

"These officers only get one chance at this work," Lagan wrote. "Once they release the scene, the scene ceases to exist as it was found, meaning any overlooked evidence is forever altered and of diminished value."

With files from Madeline Green and Megan Thomas.