Two Okanagan residents are in hospital dealing with injuries stemming from a freak Friday morning incident that left their car pinned under a 300 pound boulder.
“A White Dodge sedan was travelling southbound on Highway 97 north, two kilometres south of Oyama, when a large boulder landed on the vehicle’s hood,” said Const. Steve Holmes, noting that had the boulder fallen a fraction of a second later, the result would have been tragic.
As is, the man who was behind the wheel and a woman riding in the backseat were taken to the hospital with what are believed to be non-life threatening injuries, while a third escaped unscathed.
The rock came from a construction site above the stretch of highway they were driving, and rolled nearly 100 metres down the hillside before dropping off a sheer rock face and onto the car, said Reid Drummond the project manager from the Ministry of Transportation.
“We’re building a rock embankment above the existing highway that the new highway is going to sit on, and the boulder escaped the area,” Drummond said.
Once it was dislodged from that space, it also bowled through the containment structure put in place to stop events of this kind from happening.
That safety system clearly failed, and Drummond said efforts are currently being aimed at figuring out why, and making sure it’s not a chain of events that will be repeated.
“It’s an unfortunate incident I hope never happens again,” he said, adding the most important thing at the moment is that the man and woman injured have a speedy recovery.
“But the contractor has done a great job so far, and safety has been their number one concern.”
Nanaimo-based Windley construction took on the $79 million contract last spring and since May have moved 800,000 cubic meters of rock and debris, without incident.
Crews will stop working on that particular stretch of the future highway, until a report on what happened is complete, but construction will go on elsewhere.
“It’s a nine kilometre site, so work can continue in different areas,” he said.
WorkSafeBC has been advised of the incident incident be involved in the investigation.
The new highway is expected to be completed next year.