North Vancouver RCMP say impaired driving charges are pending for a trucker who drove his 18-wheeler for at least 50 kilometres swerving across lanes and repeatedly ricocheting off the concrete median Sunday night.
Police first received reports from other drivers just west of the Port Mann Bridge around 8 p.m.
“There were actually numerous callers about this semi-truck that it was swerving on the road and driving quite dangerously,” said Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.
One of those 911 calls came from New Westminster resident Brad Porcellato.
“I explained the level of urgency and kept travelling westbound,” he said.
Rather than get off at his exit, Porcellato and two other strangers put their four-way lights on and formed a phalanx, blocking all three lanes with their vehicles to keep other drivers back from the careening semi.
“There wasn't any time where he wasn't swerving from the extreme left to right lane from the shoulder to the median,” he said. “To at least alert the other people on the freeway was critical because – with the size of the vehicle, I mean - it would have been catastrophic.”
Eventually a North Vancouver RCMP member was in a position to intercept the trucker on Highway 1 just west of Lonsdale Avenue. The officer pulled behind the truck and put his lights on, but the suspect instead kept going.
Rather than engage in a risky pursuit, the officer backed off and turned his lights off, DeVries said.
In B.C., police can engage in a pursuit “only when the seriousness of the offence and the need for immediate apprehension outweigh the risk to the safety of members of the public that may be created by the pursuit.”
“It’s a bit of a balancing act,” DeVries said. “It's not an easy call to make. And in general, we err on the side of caution because when things go wrong, they tend to go really badly wrong.”
Police dispatched two unmarked vehicles to get ahead of the Good Samaritans and turn on their rear flashers to keep other drivers away. They followed the truck all the way to the Kelvin Grove exit in Lions Bay, where the driver was involved in a minor crash into the median.
When the truck came to a stop there, police approached with guns drawn and demanded the driver step out.
“In this case, he wasn't co-operative and so we approached the truck and arrested him out of the truck,” DeVries said. “We are now still in the process of conducting an impaired driving investigation, but indications are that alcohol was a factor in this situation.”
Porcellato witnessed the arrest.
“When he climbed out of the truck, he could hardly stand,” Porcellato said. “(He) basically fell over and then they all jumped on top of him.”
Porcellato said he didn’t get a chance to speak with the other Good Samaritans but they all exchanged a thumbs-up before getting back on the highway to go home.