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 coroner makes a comparison between reckless driving and smoking. She notes that after nearly 40 years of anti-smoking education most people would agree it is an unhealthy thing to do.

“Maybe that’s where we’ll eventually get to.”

While she can’t remember a year where MVA fatalities have been as prevalent in the Pemberton Valley, she doesn’t think it is indicative of any particular factors, but rather a reflection of a cycle.

“Though 2007 is the worst cycle I have seen for these kinds of deaths, I don’t think it has any specific meaning. Everything goes in cycles. Sometimes you get a flurry of logging accidents, then it will be people who die in bed, then it will be suicides. But this amount of death in this community area where we live, I’ve never seen anything like it in the time I’ve been a coroner.”

Rick King, who heads up the Pemberton branch of the B.C. Ambulance Service, echoes the coroner’s observation about the cyclical nature of accidents in the valley. Having worked as a paramedic for the past 26 years, he has seen his share of deaths. And like MacFayden’s experience, many have been friends and acquaintances of the man who grew up in the Pemberton Valley.

“We see this every once in a while, you’ll see a wave of MVAs,” King says. “It’s uncanny, it’s some phenomenon that I can’t explain. We might go the rest of the year without an MVA or a death, it’s unlikely, but it could happen.”

Although extremely stressful, King long ago resolved that his work would mean constantly dealing with death and dismemberment. What he finds more difficult to reconcile is the fact that people put themselves into situations where he, or his fellow first responders, will be pulling their bodies from vehicles.

“When it comes to drinking and driving, as far as public education I don’t know what more can be done. There’s TV commercials, posters up everywhere and public education in schools.

“Drinking and driving: they’ve been fighting that since there’s been alcohol and steering wheels. Some people just won’t get it.”

But he does believe that increased transit could help to reduce the number of impaired drivers.

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