Change in the weather is being blamed for a sudden rockfall on Cypress Bowl Road that sent several huge boulders crashing down on top of a West Vancouver police car Friday evening.
The police car was crushed beyond repair in the incident, which happened in a northbound lane between Cypress Place and the District of West Vancouver public works yard.
Approximately 12 cubic metres of rock fell across the lanes of traffic, with the largest piece measuring about 4.5 metres across, according to the Ministry of Transportation. An additional estimated 10 cubic metres of rock fell into an adjacent ditch.
Video posted online showed substantial debris and large rocks on the road.
The officer driving the police SUV had no warning of rockfall before three or four large boulders – one the size of a small car – came crashing down the hill, said Sgt. Matt McLean of the West Vancouver Police Department.
The officer sustained serious lacerations to his head and was transported to the hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. He’s now recovering at home, and will be off work until his injuries heal, said McLean.
That section of Cypress Bowl Road was closed for about seven hours Friday night and a detour was put in place while Miller Capilano Highway Services cleared up the rock slide. The road reopened just before midnight.
The driver and occupants of a second, civilian, vehicle also caught in the rockfall were uninjured and did not require medical treatment.
The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement there is no history of rockfall in that location.
But the North Shore experienced very heavy rainfall near the end of October followed by a cooling trend that saw overnight temperatures below zero at higher elevations, including the North Shore mountains. "These freeze/thaw conditions often contribute to geohazards, such as rockfall or landslides. This is especially true in coastal, mountainous areas," the ministry stated.
The ministry added while there is property development underway in the area, geotechnical engineers determined that the British Pacific Properties development isn’t close enough to the rockfall site to have been a contributing factor.
Those engineers have thoroughly assessed the site, according to the Ministry of Transportation, and determined it is safe.
Ministry engineers are completing further assessments of the slope to determine if further mitigation measures are required.
– with files from Alanna Kelly