No one was seriously injured in an avalanche that shut the Trans-Canada Highway near the British Columbia and Alberta border for more than 10 hours Wednesday.
Lindsay McPherson with Parks Canada said the avalanche happened at approximately 3 a.m. on Mt. Stephen, just east of Field, B.C., in Yoho National Park, west of Lake Louise, Alta. She said staff were notified by a member of the public and the Field Fire Department crews were the first on scene.
Jamieson Harbottle, the fire chief in nearby Field, B.C., said one tractor-trailer was involved in the slide, but only because the driver tried to get past the avalanche.
Several truck drivers witnessed the incident.
John Lilley, a driver from Kelowna, said he was eastbound on the Trans-Canada Highway when the tractor-trailer drove past him, unaware of the danger ahead.
“I watched a super-B (a truck hauling two trailers) come right past us and plow right into the avalanche,” Lilley said.
“You could see a big cloud of snow up in the air and you could hear the really loud thud – you could see him come to an immediate stop like within a split second.
“Unfortunately, he made a costly mistake.”
Lilley feared the worst.
“My heart actually jumped up to my throat – I was thinking the worst. I was thinking probably the guy was going to be seriously hurt.”
McPherson said Parks Canada visitor safety staff were conducting aerial avalanche control and bringing down additional debris.
“Then we have heavy equipment on site ready to clear it and re-open the highway as quickly as possible,” she said Wednesday morning.
“As always, it’s just winter driving conditions so take your time, be prepared. Have water and snacks in your vehicle and know that in certain parts of the mountain you don’t always have cell coverage, so it’s just really good to be prepared before you set out.”
The road re-opened to traffic in both directions at about 1:30 p.m.
Lilley, for one, was glad to be moving again. It was an experience he won’t soon forget.
“It’s a scary situation, but at the same time after the shock wears off from it, you take into account how thankful you are, and you’re just glad everybody made it out OK,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press and Global Calgary