Driver in fatal Vernon crash calls for median on Highway 97A
The driver of a dump truck involved in a fatal head-on collision yesterday would like to see concrete median barricades installed in the middle of the four-lane section of Highway 97A where the crash took place.
Will Oben was driving a dump truck yesterday morning, July 12, heading towards Vernon on Highway 97A when a truck travelling northbound crossed the centre line, clipped two separate vehicles and plowed straight into his dump truck.
The truck's driver, a 69-year-old Enderby man, was killed.
Panicking, Oben said he started to see smoke moments after the impact.
"I tried to get out of my door, it was stuck and the first thing that came to my mind was that this is going to catch on fire," Oben told iNFOnews.ca. "I got out of my passenger side and I jumped out and I just ran across the road,"
Luckily, Oben escaped relatively unhurt but says he's still mentally shocked. He says his neck, spine and body are also very sore.
The crash happened just north of the intersection of Highway 97A and Highway 97, roughly one kilometre from Swan Lake.
Oben says he was driving the speed limit, which is 90 km/h, and thinks the other truck hit him at a similar speed.
He questions why concrete barriers haven't been installed on this section of the highway.
"There are multiple accidents on that stretch of highway... I think it would be much better," he said.
His concerns echo those who have lost loved ones on that section of Highway 97A.
The Enderby man is the third person to lose their life after crossing the centre line on Highway 97A between Vernon and Armstrong in the last three years.
In December 2019, a Calgary woman was killed in a two-vehicle collision where one vehicle had crossed the centre line.
The fatal crash spurred the family of Ruth Blencoe to launch a petition to get concrete barriers installed on the highway after the well-known dance teacher was killed early in 2019.
"Why is someone else having to bury their (loved one)... why do people have to go through this, when it's preventable," Blencoe's grandaughter told iNFOnews.ca at the time.
In early 2021, two years after the fatal crash that took Blencoe's life, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure began installing the barriers.
But while the Ministry did act, the concrete blocks that divide the highway from Armstrong stops eight kilometres before Vernon.
The four-lane road appears to be wide enough to accommodate a median and there's no obvious reason why a barrier couldn't divide the 100 km/h road.
It's something Oben thinks would have made a difference.
"I'd like to see that happen," he said.
Oben is clearly very shaken by the crash and is playing it over in his head.
"If I would have veered or did anything differently I think I would have tipped my truck, and maybe lost my life too," he said.
The Ministry of Transport did not respond to our questions by press time.
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