The two young women who died in a head-on collision on the Sea-to-Sky Highway over the weekend have been identified as 19-year-old students from the University of British Columbia's faculty of arts.
They are Olivia Sonja Robertson and Valentine Leborgne, the B.C. Coroners Service said Monday. Ms. Robertson was originally from Collingwood, Ont., and Ms. Leborgne from Los Altos, Calif. Both were living in Vancouver while attending university.
Ms. Robertson was the driver of a Jeep Cherokee that collided head-on with a Chevrolet Silverado. Ms. Leborgne was one of three passengers in the Cherokee; the two others, also young UBC students, remain in hospital.
"This is a terrible tragedy, to have young people like that cut in the prime of life," UBC spokeswoman Lucie McNeill said on Monday. "The deepest sympathies of the university go toward the families of the students who died and their closest friends and relatives. Needless to say, this is affecting a wide swath of people at the university."
The university is now reaching out to those close to the students, including professors, said Ms. McNeill, who noted neither Ms. Robertson nor Ms. Leborgne lived in residence. Students particularly troubled by the incident have priority access to counselling services.
The crash happened at about 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, as the four women – all 19 and 20 years old – were en route to Whistler for a day of skiing, said Squamish RCMP Staff-Sergeant Brian Cumming. For reasons that are still under investigation, their northbound Cherokee crossed the median about five kilometres north of Lions Bay and collided with the Silverado, which was heading southbound.
Ms. Robertson and Ms. Leborgne died at the scene, while the other two passengers were taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, Staff Sgt. Cumming said. The driver of the Silverado was not injured.
Police have so far ruled out "alcohol, distracted driving [and] any sort of criminal or provincial violations," said Staff Sgt. Cumming, who called the crash a "tragic accident." Investigators are still determining whether speed or icy conditions may have been factors.
The university newspaper, The Ubyssey, reported one of the survivors is in serious condition at Vancouver General Hospital, while the other is at Lions Gate Hospital with less severe injuries.
Police are reminding motorists winter driving conditions are in effect and to note advisory speed limits, which are lower than the regular speed limit of 80 km/hour.
The highway, once dubbed by some as the "killer highway" for its numerous fatalities, underwent a $775-million upgrade before the 2010 Olympics that included improvements such as wider, straighter stretches and concrete median barriers. However, there is no barrier along the stretch near Lions Bay, where Saturday's crash occurred.
Lions Bay Mayor Brenda Broughton, who had called for a barrier along that stretch since the upgrade was in its engineering phase, said she was told the current type of concrete barrier may not be possible in that narrow stretch due to space constraints. In the wake of this most recent accident, she said she plans to invite police and Ministry of Transportation representatives, as well as other stakeholders, to meet in coming weeks to discuss alternatives.
"I would like to see that meeting having a suite of solutions looking at how we might approach this from an engineering perspective," she said. "You can't secure safety … but we know that the head-on vehicle-to-vehicle incidents are occurring in the areas that do not have barriers, and that is a serious concern." Ms. Broughton called Saturday's deaths "heartbreaking."