The timing was both terrible and wonderful.
A driver lost control of her car on the Trans-Canada Highway after colliding with the back end of a trailer carrying hay bales, but she and her passenger suffered only minor injuries and were pulled from the car before it caught on fire.
Darcy Rees was driving home from work and saw the accident, which he said took place at 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.
While Rees called 911, other people stopped to help the elderly couple from the burning vehicle.
“The old guy got out pretty much on his own and they helped him up to the road,” says Rees. “A couple of guys helped the lady out but she didn’t seem to be able to walk on her own. So, once they got her out, three of us helped to carry her up to the road and we sat her beside a truck.”
Rees says someone grabbed a fire extinguisher from their motor home but it was not effective in putting the fire out.
RCMP, Salmon Arm Fire Department Halls 1 and 2, BC Ambulance and utilities crews responded to the collision on Highway 1 just east of the Highway 97B interchange.
A tractor with a long hay trailer was travelling east and had just turned into a farm.
But the trailer’s long rear overhang swung out further into the eastbound lane in the process, says RCMP Staff Sgt. Scott West.
The driver of the four-door, eastbound sedan tried to pass, hitting the rear of the trailer in the process.
As a result, the metal trailer frame went through both of the rear windows of the car.
The car was pulled apart and spun into the ditch on the eastbound side of the highway, knocking five round hay bails off the trailer and bending the frame, says West.
The operator of the farm tractor was unharmed. The 79-year-old driver of the car and her 80-year-old male passenger, both residents of Malakwa, were taken to Shuswap Lake General Hospital with what was believed to be minor injuries, said West.
Telus and BC Hydro were also on scene, checking poles and lines for heat damage as the car had come to rest at the foot of a pole that carried hydro and telecommunication lines.
“As unlucky as they were to be in the accident, they were lucky they only received minor injuries,” says West, offering thanks and kudos to the bystanders who got the couple out of their car but cautioning drivers to be careful. “The message here is, please leave more room.”
The accident remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, Salmon Arm Fire Department assistant chief Mike Bailey, says the department was notified later and arrived on scene after both RCMP and ambulance personnel were on scene.
“The fire was fully involved by the time were got there,” he says of the 2:44 p.m. dispatch.
Bailey says luck was on everyone’s side as the accident took place now instead of later in the summer, which he said, is expected to be a dry one.
“It could have been a lot worse if the hay field had caught fire,” he said. “That’s why we had two halls respond and manned four fire trucks.”