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Pro driver slams Emcon after harrowing crash

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
December 29th, 2014

Emcon (our regional road maintenance contractor) is once again under fire after only the second significant snowfall of the season (see last year’s story by clicking here https://castlegarsource.com/news/emcon-answers-uproar-after-record-snowfalls-22622#.VKGxwdWk0 )

This, after Castlegar resident James Mckenzie, 44, was on his way to work (as a professional driver) at about 6:15 a.m. Monday when he was involved in a single-vehicle accident on a road for which Emcon is responsible.

“I was going not-even 15 km/h when I made the turn from Lower China Creek Road onto Homegoods Road,” he said. “I just slid right off the road, and there was nothing I could do. I’m a professional driver, I did everything right, and there was just nothing I could do.”

He said the road had been plowed down to ice, but no sand, salt or gravel had been spread, creating such a slick surface that even walking to his office from the accident site was treacherous, “I just about fell five times.”

But he was lucky to have walked away at all – his truck overturned, and he was left hanging upside down, in the dark, unable to reach his cell phone.

“If there had been even one crack in my windshield – if the windshield had broken and collapsed, I would have been pinned,” he said, adding that the crash wasn’t visible from the road (see photos below), so he likely would have been pinned for hours, maybe even days. Worse yet, he could have sustained serious head injuries, had his new windshield not prevented the front portion of his cab roof from crumpling. As it was, he was able to reach his pocket knife and smash out his driver’s side window, walking away with only minor cuts to his hands from crawling through the glass to escape.

“I’ve been driving professionally since 1998, and I’ve never been in an accident,” he said, adding the whole event was terrifying. “Not a good feeling,” he said.

It also totalled his truck – which he uses, not just to get to work, but also to get to his volunteer positions both as a trained firefighter and a Search and Rescue technician – and his insurance won’t cover the loss, as it’s considered a matter of driver error despite the condition of the road.

“It’s outrageous,” he said. “It wasn’t snowing last night, so why weren’t they (Emcon) out there putting down sand or gravel? That corner is notorious – they even spent some time last summer widening it, as there are three places here requiring commercial trucks to come and go. They don’t take care of it, they put gravel down sometimes and not others. And Emcon is bulletproof.

“The biggest mistake the government ever made was to privatize the highways.”

This is hardly the first time Emcon has come under fire from professional drivers in the area, and informal polling would indicate residents feel the same –  a poll posted last winter, asking “Do you feel Emcon (the regional road maintenance contractor) is doing a good job of clearing local roadways?” netted 15 ‘yes’ votes,  133 ‘no’ votes, one ‘I don’t know’, three ‘I don’t care’s and 24 said, ‘No, but I think expecting too much is unreasonable, given all this snow’.

No one from Emcon was available to comment this morning.

Emcon last year received a five-year contract renewal for an area from division manager Joe Mottishaw described as, “from one kilometer on the other side of the Brilliant Bridge toward Nelson, turning around at the dam lookout, over the Bombi to the Salmo cut-off (Meadows Junction) to Fruitvale to Trail and all the way up Trail hill to Rossland, then out Highway3B to Nancy Green Junction and back into Castlegar”.

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