The RCMP has confirmed two men are dead and multiple people injured after a southbound pickup truck with a lone driver crashed head on into a van carrying seven adults on the Sea to Sky highway Tuesday evening.
"Two people from the minivan were deceased at the scene," said RCMP Const. Mike Halskov. "Four occupants of the van suffered injuries that are [from] minor to non life-threatening. There's a fifth victim from the van that is in critical condition in hospital."
Halskov said the driver of the pickup truck also suffered non life-threatening injuries.
The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. PT near the Cheekye River Bridge north of Squamish and forced the closure of Highway 99 for several hours. Six ambulances and two helicopters attended the scene.
Circumstances of the crash are still being investigated.
'It's a bad corner'
Regular commuters through that stretch of the Sea to Sky Highway where the crash occured are aware of the hazards in that area.
"It's a tough turn after Alice Lake … and people take it fast," said Keenan Moses, who runs a transportation company out of Whistler.
"If there's a bit of black ice you can slide off the road. It's a bad corner, there's no doubt about it," he said.
The highway reopened at 2:30 a.m. PT Wednesday morning. Some northbound drivers affected by the closure chose to return to Squamish to spend the night, however others ended up staying in their cars after they weren't able to find accommodation.
"We were supposed to go to my friend's cabin, but we're stuck here," said 10-year-old Julian Wallie, who was heading north to Whistler with his family and their friend.
Highway improvements needed, says mayor
"It's tragic. You just think of the families involved," said Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman. "They probably just came back from a great day of skiing, and it's just a tragic accident."
Heintzman says that section of road by the bridge has good sightlines but can be treacherous in cold conditions.
She says she would like to see lane barriers extended to more areas along that corridor.
"It's really those head-on collisions that create the situation where you have fatalities more than other situations. So when we can put barriers between the north and southbound lanes, and increase the lanes two, three and four lanes across, that obviously will help tremendously in mitigating the head-on collisions," she said.
Heintzman says it's hard to complain when the Sea to Sky highway has had more investment than some other highways but says, besides the human cost, there is a good business case to improve pieces of the highway.
With files from GP Mendoza and CBC's On The Coast