1 year later, no answers on why truck broke through ice on Deline winter road

The N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation has yet to release a report on why the accident happened, and it may not arrive until early this summer.

Report may be ready early this summer, says N.W.T. Department of Transportation

The N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation has yet to release its report on what caused a truck to break through the ice on the Deline winter road last year. (Environment and Natural Resources)

A year after a fuel-carrying truck broke through the ice on the Deline winter road, the N.W.T.'s Department of Transportation has yet to release the results of an investigation into why the accident happened.

"We are still making progress, but the report is not yet finalized," says Ioana Spiridonica, a spokesperson for the department.

On March 5, 2016, a tanker delivering fuel as part of the annual government-run fuel resupply became halfway submerged on frozen Great Bear Lake about five kilometres from the community. The truck was owned by Bassett Petroleum.

Though the truck was safely removed and reportedly no fuel was spilled, the event had the community on edge, coming as it did just months before UNESCO inducted the lake into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Was the truck overweight?

Part of the report will address whether the truck was over the 40,000-kilogram weight limit in place at the time. Trucks headed further north in the territory are weighed at a station in Enterprise.

"It will address all the factors that contributed to the incident," said Spiridonica of the report, which may be ready early this summer.

Part of the delay stems from the number of groups involved in the investigation: the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Deline Got'ine Government, the company that built the ice road (Tulita-based MYB Construction) and outside contractors tapped to help retrieve the truck.

'A near-miss last year'

Danny McNeely, the MLA for the Sahtu, brought up the incident in the legislative assembly recently.

"We had a near-miss last year," said McNeely. "If it had in fact gone through, it could have created a catastrophe for downstream communities."

He pointed out that the department has budgeted more money for winter road operations.

"I am hoping that some of that would be directed to providing assurances on flooding the bay going across to the community of Deline."

Wally Schumann, the minister of Transportation, did not indicate whether that's the case, but said the department has met with MYB Construction "to discuss what happened last year and how we can best move forward. We are doing our due diligence." 

The company also built this year's ice road.

On Tuesday, the crossing was opened to vehicles weighing up to 38,000 kilograms.

Between 60 and 70 truckloads of fuel are hauled over the lake every winter, according to McNeely. The fuel is used by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to fuel its generators and by residents as home heating fuel.


Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.


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