B.C. ‘Santa’ escapes close call in Vancouver Island rockslide

Click to play video: 'Driver dressed as Santa survives rockslide on Christmas Day'
Driver dressed as Santa survives rockslide on Christmas Day
A man dressed defied death on Christmas Day when his truck and boat trailer was hit by a landslide on Vancouver Island. As Aaron MacArthur tells us, he wonders what role this summer's forest fires may have played in this landslide. – Dec 29, 2023

A B.C. Santa says he was lucky to escape with his life, following a rockslide on a Vancouver Island highway on Christmas Day.

Every year, Larry Horvath spends part of Christmas fishing at Cameron Lake, east of Port Alberni, dressed in a Santa suit.

“I do it for kids that come in to visit Christmas Day or the kids who are going out of town, and same with the adults, a lot of the adults get quite a kick out of it — they honk, I wave, that’s the deal,” Horvath explained.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Island’s Highway 4 temporarily closed for debris removal '
Vancouver Island’s Highway 4 temporarily closed for debris removal 

Horvath had packed up his sleigh (pickup truck) for the day and was heading home on Highway 4 when he was caught in the slide.

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“It just came out of nowhere, right? It was right beside me and all I could do was hit the brakes,” he said.

Horvath said a massive boulder fell just in front of his truck, while a smashed tree struck the front of the vehicle.

“If I was a second sooner, that tree would have killed me … would have been in the middle of my cab,” he said.

“I consider myself pretty lucky.”

Highway 4 through Cameron Lake was intermittently closed for months over the summer, as crews worked to repair damage and stabilize the slope from a destructive June wildfire.

Click to play video: 'Highway 4 fully reopens on Vancouver Island'
Highway 4 fully reopens on Vancouver Island

Horvath said he spotted flames on the slope several months ago, about where the slide came down, and wonders if there are remaining slope stability issues that could be related.

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“I think after every storm they need to do an assessment, close that highway down and do a proper assessment on foot. Not a drive by,” he said.

The province said no one was hurt in the slide, and that crews completed a geotechnical assessment before contractors were deployed to clean up and replace a rockfall barrier damaged by the falling boulders.

The route fully reopened on Boxing Day.

Horvath said he’s hoping the Ministry of Transportation will cover the insurance deductible for damage to his truck.

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