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Fiery crash on Okanagan Connector claims life, closes westbound lanes

A fiery crash on the Okanagan Connector near Merritt Wednesday night has claimed one life. Twitter @Kieursten718

A fatal collision involving two commercial vehicles on Highway 97C — the Okanagan Connector — has shut down the westbound lanes of the highway.

The crash happened near the Loon Lake exit outside of Merritt on Wednesday night at around 9 p.m.

As of Thursday morning, the westbound lanes remained closed as both vehicles continued to smoulder.

According to police, an off-duty RCMP officer came upon the crash scene and called for help.

Read more: West Kelowna driver airlifted, 3 passengers injured in Okanagan Connector rollover

Preliminary findings at the crash scene suggest that a B-Train semi-tractor trailer unit, fully loaded with lumber, had been parked stationary and unoccupied, while awaiting a tow truck after becoming disabled when it was struck from behind, stated Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP in the Southeast District.

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The crash resulted in the second commercial vehicle bursting into flames.

Emergency crews were unable to extract the driver from the vehicle before it became fully engulfed in flames.

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Tragically the operator of the second commercial vehicle was pronounced deceased at the scene, O’Donaghey said.

Police said the flames spread to the first commercial vehicle and threatened nearby vegetation.

RCMP officers, who secured the scene overnight monitored the fire closely as it was outside of the fire protection zone.

The B.C. Coroners Service was notified and has launched a concurrent fact-finding investigation into the circumstances surrounding the driver’s death.

Read more: Shocking semi crash near Sicamous, B.C., caught on dashcam video

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Due to privacy concerns under the Coroners Act, the name of the deceased will not be released.

Crews will finish their scene examination and remove the wreckage once the area is deemed safe.

Motorists are encouraged to monitor Drive BC for any updates on the highway closure. The next update is scheduled for noon Thursday.

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