Five people were killed yesterday in a head-on collision between a car and semi-truck pulling two empty flatbed tractor-trailer units in central British Columbia under heavy snow conditions.
The victims were travelling east on Highway 16 near the community of Cluculz Lake, about 50 kilometres west of Prince George, in a Chevrolet Cavalier when they were hit by the truck, which was travelling in the opposite direction, at about 10 a.m.
Local news reports said four of the dead were children aged nine to 12. Their names have not been released pending notification of relatives, but reports said they came from Burns Lake, about 170 kilometres west of the crash site.
RCMP Constable Craig Douglass of the North District detachment called it a "terrible day."
"There were adults and non-adults in the vehicle. I can't confirm, but it's possible that four of the five were children, or at least under 18," he said, adding that the coroner was likely to release names today.
The truck's driver, who was not badly injured, was among those who alerted the emergency services by cellphone. Constable Douglass said he was "very shaken up."
He said the semi was carrying wood chips and had landed in a ditch. The Cavalier remained in the centre of the highway, almost completely destroyed.
"The small car ... came around the corner at the top of the hill," said Vanderhoof RCMP Corporal Marion Davis. "The empty transport truck was westbound coming up the hill. The car went into a spin, out of control and slid into the path of the semi.
"We can't say it enough, it is just vital that people drive at speeds appropriate for the road conditions," Cpl. Davis said.
Several RCMP units responded from Prince George and Vanderhoof, as well as area volunteer fire departments, B.C. Ambulance Service and two coroners.
Constable Douglass said the cause of the collision was being investigated but that slippery road conditions had played a part. There was poor visibility due to blowing snow, with the wind chill dropping the temperature to -22 C.
"The investigating team has not yet determined whether speed was an issue, weather was an issue. Road conditions were likely a factor," he said, telling drivers to use common sense and "think hard as to whether they needed to be on the road."
Traffic was backed up in both directions for several hours from roadblocks established about a kilometre from the crash site. The collision closed the highway between Prince George and Vanderhoof but it was due to reopen around 7 p.m. last night.