3 people killed in multi-vehicle crash on Hwy 5 north of Kamloops, B.C.

On March 2, B.C. Premier David Eby delivers condolences to families of the two refugees from Afghanistan who died in a vehicle crash on Highway 5 near Clearwater, B.C., Wednesday morning. (CBC - image credit)
On March 2, B.C. Premier David Eby delivers condolences to families of the two refugees from Afghanistan who died in a vehicle crash on Highway 5 near Clearwater, B.C., Wednesday morning. (CBC - image credit)

A multi-vehicle crash north of Kamloops, B.C., Wednesday killed three people and left two others in critical condition, police said.

Two of those killed were refugees from Afghanistan who had recently arrived in Canada, according to B.C. Higwhay Patrol Staff Sgt. Bryan Fedirchuk.

He said he expects the two people in critical condition to survive their injuries.

It's the third fatal incident along a roughly 40-kilometre stretch of Highway 5 north of Kamloops in just over a month, leading to calls for safety improvements from local leaders.

Road conditions not a factor: police

B.C. RCMP's Highway Patrol said police responded to a report of the incident at 3329 Highway 5, between Little Fort and Clearwater, B.C, at 10:56 a.m. PT.

Mounties say the initial investigation shows a southbound Ford F-150 pickup truck crossed the centre line and side-swiped a Ford F-550 truck towing a trailer, before crashing head-on with a Ford Escape SUV.

Three people in the Escape died at the scene, and two others in the vehicle suffered serious injuries and were transported to hospital, according to police.

The driver of the F-150 was injured but not seriously, police said, and the F-550 driver was uninjured.

RCMP said road conditions were not a factor in the collision.

The stretch of Highway 5 was closed in both directions for several hours as investigators examined the scene. It fully reopened around 7 p.m. PT, according to DriveBC.

Calls for action

On Feb. 2 two commercial vehicles collided on Highway 5 in McLure, B.C. 50 kilometres north of Kamloops, killing one and sending another person to hospital.

A week later, a three-vehicle incident killed another person and sent another to hospital near Louis Creek, 18 kilometres north of McLure.

The latest incident, eight  kilometres north of McLure, prompted local leaders to call for action from the province to improve road safety.

Mayor Ward Stamer of Barriere, B.C., a district municipality located on Highway 5 about 60 kilometres north of Kamloops, has called for temporary speed reductions during winter and making dashcams mandatory for all commercial vehicles as a way of improving safety on the road.

Last month, Stamer said vehicle crashes on the highway had increased where it reduces from four lanes to two.

"All of a sudden, you're just on a regular two-lane highway, and you're getting into some rock cuts and fairly winding, twisty roads," he said.

Clearwater Coun. Ken Matheson, a former RCMP officer who responded to fatal crashes on highways, says the Wednesday morning collision has led to anxiety and frustration among first responders and people living across the North Thompson Valley.

"It hits viscerally, right in your guts," Matheson said on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "It puts our community at risk as well, so it has a ripple effect through the valley."

300-plus tickets issued to speeding vehicles on Hwy 5

Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell says the number of violation tickets being issued to speeding trucks on Highway 5 has increased over the last month.

"Five-hundred-and-eleven tickets were issued over the last 24 days on Highway 5N [north], of which 332 were for speeding," he said on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "That's shocking to me."

On Monday, Blackwell and Stamer met B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming to discuss their concerns and press for more immediate action on highway truck crashes.

Blackwell says he stressed the importance of having the B.C. Highway Patrol police officers stationed in Clearwater and Kamloops to respond to incidents on the highway.

"Right now, it's Chilliwack or Kelowna where these people come out of, and it turns what could be a four-to-five-hour closure into a 12-or-13 hour closure.

"Then you have all this pent-up energy from drivers — that's terrible," he said. "By the time it gets cleared, they start making really bad decisions."

B.C. Premier David Eby addressed the deaths during a news conference Thursday, saying the vehicle crash has created profound "layers of tragedy" for the victims' families and all British Columbians.

"We care about them, and for all of us, our thoughts go out to their family members," he said.

"British Columbians are thinking of you and wish you the best in this incredibly tragic and terrible circumstance."

RCMP are asking drivers who witnessed the Wednesday morning truck crash, or who have dashcam video of the incident, to contact the B.C. Highway Patrol at 250-828-3111.