In October 2003 the unthinkable happened when the Rutherford Creek Bridge was torn from its footings by a raging river swollen by torrential rain, trees ripped from the banks, boulders big enough to kill, and thousands of pounds of sand and gravel sediment. The bridge, built in 1971, was set to withstand a flow of 127 cubic metres per second. During the storm the peak flow was estimated to be 315 metres per second.
In the small hours of Oct.18, 2003 three cars plummeted off the end of the road into Rutherford Creek before the washout was noticed by a local taxi driver who set up a roadblock. Of the six people in the vehicles only one managed to make it out alive, Casey Burnette. Brother Jamie and friend Ed Elliot have never been found. Friends Darryl Stevenson, 31, and Michael Benoit, 29, were also killed. Their Volvo was found Oct.19.
And in a strange twist, Bob Michael Leibel was found 14 months later — he was never officially reported missing — it's a story that's never been told.
Ten years on Pique looks back at a storm that remains one for the history books.
A small-town newspaper obit from 2005 holds the long-elusive clues to a secret in Kaitlyn McDonough's life.
She already knows her dad is dead; it's the rest of the story she's desperately searching for.
"I think he saw me when I was six days old and that was the last time he saw me," she said of a moment in time 21 years ago, memorialized in a faded snapshot, the only photo she has of her dad, tangible proof that they were together once.
The only other thing she knows for sure is that Bob Michael Leibel died in a freak accident a decade ago this month in the Sea to Sky corridor when the car he had stolen plunged into Rutherford Creek after the bridge spanning the crossing was swept away during a massive storm.
It's that accident that could lead her to her past.
"I've tried in recent years to figure out a little bit more information but haven't really got very far. Not many people know about him or are willing to talk to me about anything so..."
But someone knows about Leibel and cared enough to mark his passing in the Kootenay News Advertiser in Cranbrook, after his body was found in Rutherford Creek in December 2004 — a little more than a year after he went missing.
Kaitlyn's breathing deepens down the phone, her heart begins to pound, as she waits for the information that could unlock the mystery of who she is, where she comes from.
"Robert Michael Leibel, September 9, 1968 — October 18, 2003, missing since 2003, recently discovered in Rutherford Creek where he had been for 14 months following a vehicle accident after a bridge wash out. Bob is survived by..."
And so, on the 10-year anniversary of Leibel's death a stranger tells his daughter Kaitlyn the names of her grandparents — Dan and Marilyn. She learns about her father's siblings — Valery and Del and Trevor and Nicole and Russel — aunts and uncles she never knew existed. She hears Leibel had five children — that's five half-brothers or half-sisters for Kaitlyn.
"Oh, that's crazy. I didn't know about any of those people actually."
The silence deepens.
Does she want to find out more?
"That would be amazing. I've been looking for a very long time."
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