October 19, 2007 Features & Images » Feature Story

Preventing preventable deaths 

Twelve fatalities in nine months on Pemberton roads has first responders speaking out

click to enlarge The Message about driving responsibly seems to have been lost on some people.
  • The Message about driving responsibly seems to have been lost on some people.

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“The attitude is, ‘I can go out and a have a few cocktails, get behind the wheel and get home in 20 minutes,’” says Chief Mack.

“With a lot of these younger adults, they’ve lost friends to this… there’s a whole group of them. I had one of my cousin’s sons die in a crash and another son impaired from a crash.”

He also thinks people underestimate just how much attention it takes to drive the Sea to Sky highway.

“You don’t have to overdrive this road very much. You lose it on a corner and it’s over.

“(A couple of the recent accidents), those people were traveling at ungodly speeds — you could tell from the impact. Those people weren’t going 100 or 110 km/h, they were going over 120 km/h.”

The fire chief notes that part of what makes 120 km/h so fast is the actual construction of Highway 99.

“Some of the curves on the 99 are banked the wrong way, which compounds the problem dramatically. If they’re banked wrong even a couple of degrees you’re whole centre of gravity is off.”

Chief Mack says that while he has spoken to the Ministry of Highways about the road, he realizes changes to the stretch of Highway 99 between Pemberton and Whistler in his lifetime will be unlikely. In the meantime, education is the best defense against a road which can be very unpredictable.

“We have to get the message out to the whole community. It’s not just young drivers. It’s everyone.

“You know as well as I do that we have people in their 50s going to the Legion or the hotel for a few cocktails, getting behind the wheel and driving home. What can you say about those guys? They’ve been lucky.”

Chief Mack, who has worked in the community for well over a decade, explains the integral role the fire department plays in attending MVAs.

“Our job is to make sure the scene is secure, if the car is on its roof or whatever. We assess the risk of fire and help direct traffic. We help extricate the patients. We turn them over to the ambulance if they’re living and if they’re not, we wait until Jan has done all of her stuff before extricating them and bagging them.”

The “Jan” Chief Mack is referring to is Coroner Jan MacFayden. A Pemberton resident, MacFayden has been investigating sudden, unexpected deaths in the Sea to Sky corridor for the past 16 years.

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