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Truck driver a hero for evading head-on collision with SUV: RCMP officer

Had it been a head-on crash between the SUV and truck, the SUV driver likely wouldn’t have survived, says Nanaimo RCMP officer Darwin Tetreault
The crash scene on Highway 19 south of Fifth Street on Wednesday. NANAIMO FIRE RESCUE

A semi-trailer-truck driver who was seriously injured after he swerved to avoid an SUV travelling the wrong way on a highway is a hero, says a Nanaimo RCMP officer.

“He saved this other guy’s life and he’s going to pay for it for the rest of his life,” said Staff Sgt. Darwin Tetreault.

The crash on Highway 19 south of Fifth Street just after 6 a.m. on Wednesday closed the Nanaimo Parkway for 11 hours.

An SUV driver took a U-turn across the median on a route intended for emergencies and drove south in the northbound lanes, striking the truck, whose driver swerved at highway speed to avoid the SUV, hitting a concrete barrier and rockface.

The driver, who was pinned in the truck’s cab for ­several hours as rescue crews dismantled the cab down to its frame, was taken by air ambulance to ­Victoria.

He suffered neck injuries, a shattered pelvis and broken leg.

“He will be in hospital a significant period of time,” said Tetreault.

The driver of the Toyota Venza SUV, equipped with about nine airbags and crumple-zone technology, suffered a leg injury and was taken by ground ambulance to hospital.

Had it been a head-on crash between the SUV and truck, the SUV driver likely wouldn’t have survived, said Tetreault.

The SUV driver is now under investigation for ­dangerous operation of a motor vehicle under the ­Criminal Code, said Tetreault. Depending on the truck driver’s injuries, that could be upgraded to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, he said.

Police will look into why and how the driver ended up going into opposing traffic.

Multiple other investigations related to the crash are expected, including a WorkSafe investigation, a Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement investigation, an environmental investigation related to approximately 75 gallons of fuel that leaked from the truck onto the ground and possibly a Ministry of the Environment investigation, said Tetreault.

There will be mechanical inspections of both the truck and SUV and an inspection of the control module, which is similar to a black box on airplanes in terms of capturing important data at the time of the crash, such as speed and braking.

Tests for alcohol or drugs were not taken at the scene — because lifesaving efforts took priority — but a search warrant will be obtained to examine blood‑test results taken in hospital from both drivers, he said.

Tetreault said police only have one opportunity at a crash scene to gather a multitude of evidence and ­information, while other contractors must ensure all spills and debris are cleaned and safety infrastructure, such as the concrete barriers that were damaged, are replaced.

“The travelling public was very accommodating Wednesday, with respect to us blocking off the highway,” said Tetreault. “They were very patient with us as we went through those thorough processes to gather that critical evidence.”

Tetreault said it took 11 hours for police to conduct the investigation, for the vehicles to be removed, and for repairs to the roadway so that it was safe again.

“We know that it inconvenienced literally tens of thousands of people but we thank the public for the patience that allowed us to do our job properly,” he said.

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