Hope Search and Rescue and the Fraser Canyon Hospital assisted greatly in the Aug. 5 accident on the Coquihalla Highway.
Upon receiving the call to assist, Hope Search and Rescue sent out three men, including senior member Troy Leech, Jim Lasser and Ray Hartt.
“They’re always a mess,” said Leech. “If you’ve covered any accidents, you can probably imagine what they look like.
“This one was utter chaos. There were cars just parked everywhere.”
Leech noted that while the number of vehicles involved made the scene look chaotic, he noted that he has seen worse in his time in Hope Search and Rescue.
“We are the Jaws of Life in town,” said Leech. “So, when we get called out to a multi-vehicle accident like that, we primarily do the extrication — removing the people from the car and handing them to the paramedics.”
When Leech got to the scene, he found that a person was stuck in the car.
“We realized that, basically, the passenger side, the driver’s door and back passenger door needed to come off,” said Leech. “And at that point we also removed the centre post which the doors basically hinge on and close on, which is called the B-post.
“We removed the B-post and got the patient out through the big opening.”
It took an hour to get up, use the Jaws, but the journey down took longer.
“The journey home was a lot longer because we had to weave through some of the traffic,” said Leech. “We basically had to go down the southbound lane … so we had to get taken out by an RCMP in the front of us. And behind us, the paramedics.
“It was a kind of a big long train of emergency vehicles heading out of that.”
Back in the Fraser Valley, “both Fraser Canyon and Chilliwack General Hospitals played an important role” in helping Coquihalla accident victims, said Fraser Health regional director Petra Pardy.
“We were initially told that 25 cars had been involved in a car accident on the Coquihalla and that there could be up to 40 victims,” said Pardy. “We immediately began preparing for a mass casualty scenario.”
Pardy noted that immediately notified the on-call physician and other hospital staff stayed late.
They also looked to see whether they could “safely discharge” or move patients in the emergency department to other parts of the hospitals.
Finally, they notified their tertiary sites to prepare them should victims need more intensive care.
“Later in the afternoon, we were provided with a more accurate report regarding the number of injuries,” said Pardy.
“In the end, Fraser Canyon Hospital received two victims, and Chilliwack General Hospital received four.
“One person was immediately sent to (New Westminster’s) Royal Columbian Hospital as their injuries needed a higher level of care.
“All of our patients were treated and released from the hospital on the same day.
“We are very grateful for the amazing work and dedication to patient care of our staff and physicians.”
The incident happened at 2:30 p.m. at Box Canyon, south of the snow shed, when a semi collided into 13 other vehicles, said Const. Melissa Wutke, spokesperson for BC RCMP Traffic Services, adding that it “apparently unable to stop.”
“Fortunately, there have not been any fatalities. One person has been airlifted to hospital with serious but not life threatening injuries.”
They add that 10 ground ambulances attended the crash scene, and several individuals with minor injuries were transported to local hospitals.