January 29, 2014 - 11:06 AM
"I'M LUCKY TO BE ALIVE BY ABOUT TWO SECONDS."
PENTICTON - Karen Searle of Penticton said it was a good thing her car was struck by a massive boulder on Monday.
The retired administration worker was driving on Highway 3, heading to Vancouver to see one of her two adult sons. Her 2009 Hyundai Sonata was in cruise control, the radio was on and she was in the inside lane when she noticed a couple of rocks on the road.
Searle attempted to drive around them when two other rocks struck her car. The first hit hard enough to force the deployment of the airbags. The second was massive enough to destroy part of her car's front end but it also had the benefit of knocking her vehicle out of the path of a large rock slide.
The RCMP reported the slide to be about 150 metres wide with stones the size of pickup trucks. It happened around noon about eight kilometres west of Standing Rock. Traffic is still blocked in both directions as of Wednesday morning.
Searle remembered the second impact quite well.
"Once I hit that initial smaller rock I heard a huge crunch and I guess that was the boulder landing on the hood of the car," she said. The large rock spun the car and it ended up on the other side of the road and away from the rock slide.
Searle couldn't see much at that point thanks to the deployed air bag. She also had steam from her radiator or dust from the rocks filling the car's interior. She grabbed her purse, her cellphone and tried to get out but the car door was jammed.
"I took my foot to it and just kind of gave it a good shove and it opened about halfway," she said.
Once outside she got a better picture of what happened. She realized she could just as easily been knocked further into the path of the slide.
"If it hadn't spun me back I would have been totally crushed under there. So, that was the good thing. It spun me forward and out of the line of fire."
Searle and other drivers who had to stop tried calling emergency services but had difficulty getting reception. A few minutes later an RCMP cruiser arrived and the officer was able to call for help.
Paramedics came out to the scene but she told them she was fine. A woman drove her to Princeton, a helpful gesture because it was on a detour route so her husband could easily retrieve her. She arrived home in Penticton at about 8 p.m.
Since the event Searle has repeated her story many times but retelling it hasn't had much of an effect.
"I'm still saying, did this really happen and why is everyone phoning me? That's the reaction. It's not really a big deal you know."
"It's almost like I was an observer. It was kind of surreal. I walked away without a scratch. No shock and there's been no repercussions at all whatsoever," she said. "It was all a happy ending story really."
She plans to use Highway 3 again. Her family travels that route all the time and will continue to do so in the future.
"You know nature happens," she said. "I'm lucky to be alive by about two seconds. Life goes on."
As for insurance coverage she said it's still being investigated.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @InfoNewsPentict.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014