Highway 99 may get safety enhancements after crash kills two 

Local government officials seek information about 10-hour closure of highway

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KAREN MCKIBBIN - Aftermath of tragedy Cars wait for Highway 99 to reopen following an accident that killed two young women north of Lions Bay on Saturday, Nov. 23.
  • Photo by Karen McKibbin
  • Aftermath of tragedy Cars wait for Highway 99 to reopen following an accident that killed two young women north of Lions Bay on Saturday, Nov. 23.

The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) is looking into safety concerns along a stretch of the Sea to Sky highway following an accident that killed two people last weekend.

"The ministry is working with the police in conducting their investigation of the incident," said an MOT spokesperson by email.

"The ministry is also undertaking a review of the crash location and along with the police findings, will determine whether additional safety enhancements are needed in the area."

The stretch north of Lions Bay was widened and the alignment of the curves improved, as part of the $600 million Sea to Sky Improvement Project completed in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. But there are no concrete lane dividers.

Olivia Sonja Robertson and Valentine Leborgne, both UBC students just 19 years of age, were going to Whistler with two other friends for the day on Saturday, Nov. 23 when their SUV crossed the centre line five kilometres north of Lions Bay and slammed into an oncoming pickup truck at about 7:25 a.m. Both died at the scene. Their two friends were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The driver of the pick-up truck received only minor injuries. He is facing no charges in the incident.

Local government officials and business leaders are calling for safety upgrades, even a barrier separating the two lanes, along with seeking answers about the decision to close down the highway entirely to traffic for over 10 hours resulting in hundreds of travellers being unable to get to Whistler.

Whistler's acting mayor, John Grills, said a senior member of the RCMP traffic division is going to meet with Whistler council at a future Committee of the Whole meeting to explain the work the Integrated Collision And Reconstruction Service (ICARS) does when there is a fatal crash in the hopes of understanding the length of time accidents take to investigate.

Grills said his thoughts are with the crash victims.

"If it was my 20-year-old university student that was on the highway and the responders felt they needed time to complete the investigation then it has to be taken," Grills said.

"We've got two university students that are deceased and another severely injured and you've got a pickup driver who is dealing with an awful situation."

Lions Bay Mayor Brenda Broughton is reiterating her call for centre-line dividers throughout the route, and wants to meet stakeholders to discuss highway safety. She first made the suggestion when the highway upgrade was in its engineering phase.

"We asked for a barrier in that area," Broughton told CBC. "There's no question that if there's a divided highway you've got a scenario that's a safer scenario than without that division."



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