NANAIMO — A portion of the Inland Island Highway north of Qualicum Beach was so treacherous on Tuesday morning that RCMP shut it down.
Central Island Traffic Services RCMP Cpl. Mike Elston says there were at least six crashes in 45 minutes along an extraordinarily dangerous stretch of Highway 19, about 3 km north of the Horne Lake exit.
He says the most serious crash involved a northbound truck that hit the ditch, forcing a man to be pried out by firefighters and flown to Victoria with serious head injuries. Elston says the man is in serious, but stable condition.
Elston describes the highway conditions at the time as an oddity.
“The temperature dipped in this one spot and the road became a sheet of ice,” said Elston. “It was so dangerous that police, who were were attempting to slow traffic down by inhabiting part of the roadway, ended having to pull off to the side because people were unable to stop in time and they (police) feared getting hit.”
Elston says police were forced to shut Highway 19 down for nearly three hours between the Horne Lake and Cook Creek turn-offs. He says the road was closed because it was simply too slick and room was needed for tow trucks and Emcon Highway Services crews to improve traction. Elston declared the highway to be in good condition during a late Tuesday morning phone interview with NanaimoNewsNOW, as he was leaving the scene.
Elston says there is no right or wrong answer in whether to drive on Highway 19 or 19A when the roads are icy. He says Highway 19 (Inland Island Highway) tends to get more traffic, therefore, is usually in pretty good shape.
“It is a little more elevated (Hwy 19) so it does get a little more icy at times, that being said when the sun comes up, the sun reaches the Inland Highway a little bit better than some stretches of the water (19A) route.”
Elston says there were multiple crashes on Monday throughout the mid-island region due to slick road conditions.