Coroner recommends bridge warning system 

Rutherford disaster killed five in 2003

By Clare Ogilvie

The government must investigate the feasibility of putting a warning system on bridges at risk of collapse say just released coroner’s reports into the deaths of four people who perished when the Rutherford Creek Bridge washed away in a torrential storm in 2003.

This is not the first time a coroner has made the recommendation. After the M-Creek Bridge washed out near Lions Bay killing nine people in 1981 it was suggested that the government install flashing lights that would operate if a bridge collapsed.

Ministry of Transportation spokesman Jeff Knight said Friday his office had yet to receive the coroner’s reports on the Rutherford Creek washout. But when it did it would review the recommendations thoroughly.

Four coroner’s reports were done, one for each of the four people originally believed to have perished in the accident. Each report carried the same recommendations.

Previously the ministry has stated that its investigations have not found a warning system with a proven track record.

The Rutherford reports say that the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. has issued recommendations in the past year to develop an effective motorist warning system in the event of a partial or full bridge collapse.

“Consideration should be given to monitoring the progress of these recommendations to assist in developing a similar system in British

Columbia,” the reports state.

Katie Burnette lost her husband Jamie, the father of her now two-and-a-half year son Cole, when the Rutherford Bridge collapsed Oct. 18, 2003.

“Absolutely I would like to see a warning system put in,” she said from Ontario where she moved last year to be close to her and Jamie’s families.

“I have skimmed the report but it is just too hard to read at this time of year. It will always be there and it will never go away but at this time of year I just want to try and keep a big smile on for Cole.”

Both Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Whistler’s Mayor Ken Melamed support the investigation of a warning light system for bridges.

“It should definitely be assessed,” said Sturdy, adding that Pemberton would be following up with the government on the recommendations as soon as he has seen them.

Said Melamed: “The recommendations reflect the sentiment of the community after the accident and there is a greater amount of diligence required by the highways operators and the Ministry of Transportation and Highways in protecting the public from these kind of events.”

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