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COMMENTARY · 14th February 2011
Brian Denton
Monday February 14, 2011

Hello Don

I have read your comments in the Friday, February 11 “The Northern Connector” regarding the ice that fell resulting in a collision with a Greyhound Bus at “Mile 35” of the Terrace to Prince Rupert highway. I am somewhat perplexed with several of your comments. You repeated that the amount of ice that came down was “unprecedented”.

You also stated that you have reviewed the situation and “the ministry has no plans to change any of its ice clearing procedures”. Further, you also stated that “Maintenance crews went out the next day and put 50 rounds into some ice on the cliffs, and it didn’t make a difference”.

My comments are that although you may be correct that the amount of ice that fell was unprecedented, a more honest evaluation of the situation would be that there has been a problem in that area of the highway for years.

Chunks of ice sufficiently large to kill a person have fallen, chunks of ice sufficiently large to destroy the engine of a transport truck have fallen. In addition, the concern of falling ice has been reported to your ministry numerous times, including by myself in my letter to Kevin Falcon dated March 6 2008 and since then in my e-mail complaints complete with digital photographs of ice overhanging the highway.

I note also the futile attempts of maintenance crews to dislodge ice with “50 rounds into some ice on the cliffs, and it didn’t make a difference”. I would suggest that it is now appropriate for your ministry and highway maintenance contractor to examine alternative methods of ice removal if the best maintenance crews could do was to fire bullets into chunks of ice weighing perhaps tonnes.

Why would you make such a statement that the ministry has no plans to change any of its ice clearing procedures? Does it take a bus load of people to be killed before the public’s screams force your ministry to action? Who are you protecting?

I note now todays article in the Terrace Daily reporting yet another near miss from a large chunk of ice in the same general location. In my experiences with safety matters, near misses are almost as important as fatalities. The chunk of ice that destroyed the engine of the transport truck was a near miss. I had a near miss which I reported in my March 2008 letter to Kevin Falcon. The Greyhound was another near miss. The incident reported today in the Terrace Daily was yet another near miss. It should not take this many near misses along with the one hit to propel you to action.

Of course, the public only hears of isolated incidents and if it was not for the recent incident with the Greyhound, we likely would not have heard of these latest incidents. How many more incidents does your ministry know of that are being tucked away with your only admission being that the ice falls which struck the Greyhound were “unprecedented”.

We have being trying for years now to obtain better maintenance of highway 16, especially by Nechako North Coast. If you and your ministry are to deny the reality of the situation, then we the public have a hopeless battle.

Yours truly,
Brian Denton
professional driver in local area since 1977
Comment by Mark vanHerd on 19th February 2011
I was working for a company that hauled loads of fuel from Prince Rupert to Terrace and as far East as Smithers at the time the fatality happened. I know that many drivers had been complaining about the large chunk of ice that had built up on "Carwash Rock" that year,late 80's or early 90's I forget now the exact year it was.
That day My wife ,2 children and I had driven down to Rupert in our little Chevette to visit family and when we got there we found out that the highway was closed and that it was because a large chunk of ice had fallen on a pick up truck and killed the driver.
I knew right away that it had to be the ice at Carwash Rock and we had just passed under it about an hour before.
We later found out that it was the ice at Carwash.I wrote a letter to the paper at the time and pointed out that there had been many complaints about that chunk of ice and that I hoped the surviving person sued the people responsible.
We read a followup story a few years later that said either a settlement had been paid or the survivor had won a judgement for around 2 million dollars.
Mr.Ramsay's comments reflect the same attitude that the Ministry has had towards any and all complaints that have been made about the highway maintenance shortfalls in the entire area for years now.
It's a known fact that we live in an area of mixed weather patterns! A blend of inland valleys and inland weather mixing with the coastal influence makes this area a real challenge but we have known this and the Ministry has known this and used it as an excuse for their shorcomings since I began writing letters to them back in the 90's.
We know its unpredictable , so the Ministry should quit using that for an excuse every time there's a problem and step up to the plate and mandate better coverage by the contractor .
They were popping away at it with rifles back in the 80's. It's time to take it to the next level and either move the highway to the outside of the CN tracks from the 28 mile crossing all the way to the Kasiks river bridge and therefore bypass the two killer spots or build some snow sheds at those two spots. It is 2011.
Death has occurred
Comment by Moe Naguib on 16th February 2011
Shortly after "privatization" a chunk of Ice did kill a driver of a full size pick up truck. This happens on southern highways as well, then they get "Snow Sheds" built across the danger zone. I don't know how many deaths it takes before the Minister is directed that its enough of problem to correct it, I suspect it to be in the range of several dozen per year in regions such as ours far from the seat of power.