UPDATE, Feb. 11, 2021: Man and dog were killed in Coquihalla Highway chain-reaction crash: RCMP
One person is dead and more than 30 others were injured after a crash involving several vehicles on the Coquihalla Highway east of Hope, B.C.
RCMP said the collision happened just after 9:30 a.m. PT, about five kilometres north of the Highway 3 turnoff.
The highway reopened about 12 hours later, just before 10 p.m. PT.
Thirteen ambulances, three air ambulances and a number of patient transit buses responded to find around 34 people needing help, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services. Two people were flown to hospital in critical condition, three people were taken by ambulance to hospital in serious but stable condition.
The remaining patients who had non-life threatening injuries were cared for at the scene by paramedics and taken to a warming station in Hope, according to Emergency Health Services.
WATCH | Witness video shows aftermath of a fatal multi-vehicle collision:
Witness Mitchell Danilak narrowly missed falling victim to what he describes as a chain-reaction crash involving 20 vehicles.
Danilak was driving around a curve near the Othello turnoff when he spotted crashed vehicles strewn across both sides of the road. He managed to stop in time, but others driving behind him weren't so lucky.
"I saw the last of the carnage," he said. "One loaded tractor trailer came down … hit the brakes, hit the guard rail, jackknifed and slid into a container unit. Then a cube van came down and a pick-up truck with a skid steer plowed into the back of that."
Danilak said he also saw an ambulance slide into the rock wall and a police car spin out and hit the guard rail.
"There was absolutely no sand on this hill. It was hard-pack and icy," he said.
Frigid temperatures, snowy conditions
The Coquihalla Highway is a mountain pass connecting B.C.'s Lower Mainland to the Interior. The weather on the highway was bitterly cold and snowy Wednesday, with an Arctic outflow warning in place. The warning means frigid air from the Interior is blowing west and over the highway.
WATCH | Truck driver describes deadly crash he narrowly avoided:
Temperatures were well below zero at the time of the crash, feeling as low as –17 C with the wind chill.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation said Wednesday staff were walking down the line of cars stuck on the closed road to keep drivers informed. The ministry was also arranging for a bus to shuttle children and other vulnerable passengers to Hope so they wouldn't have to sit in cars in the cold.
RCMP said Hope has opened a warming centre for people who are uninjured from the crash while they wait for transportation home or to another destination.
Police say other agencies and people have helped out after the collision, including volunteers who provided shelter and hot coffee to those who were involved in the crash.
RCMP Cpl. Mike Halskov described the conditions as "challenging" as police, highway maintenance workers, tow operators and ministry staff deal with the aftermath of the collision.
He said the investigation into the crash remains ongoing and police will provide more details on Thursday.
Anyone with information or dash-cam video is asked to call the RCMP's Fraser Valley Traffic Services at 604-702-4039.