B.C. woman pushes for better cell coverage along Highway 16 after narrow escape from rock slide

B.C. woman pushes for better cell coverage along Highway 16 after narrow escape from rock slide

A B.C. woman who narrowly escaped a rock slide on the highway between Terrace and Prince Rupert this week is calling for better cell coverage along the notorious stretch of road.

Tracy Wheeler was making the drive along the wet, dark and foggy Highway 16 in the north of the province on Sunday, as she often does, when the car she was travelling in got caught in a rock slide.

"There were rocks already across the road and rocks still coming down," Wheeler said. "We swerved to miss a rock that was probably bigger than the car, went over rocks and then hit another rock."

The rock she hit was "huge," Wheeler said, and the size of a large boulder. Other rocks were strewn across both lanes of the highway.

"[We were] scared that the engine is going to blow because we went head on [into the rock]," she told Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North.

"As we're getting out of the car, there are rocks still coming down the side — we can hear the cracking."

Cell coverage 'a big problem'

The group clambered out of the car and tried to seek safety and Wheeler's concern turned to how to call for emergency help.

"We don't know if we have cell service either and that's my biggest complaint about that highway," she said. "Cell coverage is definitely something that is a big problem."  

The road stretches past the frigid Skeena River on one side and precipitous rocks on the other, making it a sometimes treacherous trip. 

Eventually, they managed to flag down a truck and call 911.

Wheeler is now pushing for better emergency cell service along the highway after the near-miss.

The provincial Ministry of Citizens' Services says getting cell coverage in remote locations is up to the private sector.

"It was the scariest experience of my life," Wheeler said. "I'm definitely not going to be driving it during the dark hours and I'm only going to be driving it in perfect conditions."

With files from Daybreak North.