A fatal collision five kilometres north of McLeese Lake between a semi-trailer truck and an SUV Thursday morning has left five people dead, says Corp. Madonna Saunderson, media liaison for RCMP Prince George Region Provincial Traffic Services.
Police have not yet released the names of the deceased, however the Prince George Citizen has revealed that the crash killed Matt Altizer, 40, his wife Leah and their two children, Jonathan and Emily, and Heather Kress, an adult family member. Matt Altizer was the systems manager for the Citizen.
The driver of the tractor trailer unit was uninjured in the crash but was taken to the Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams lake for observation.
The SUV was southbound and the semi-trailer truck was northbound. The SUV crossed the centre line and collided with the semi.
Police responded to the crash at about 9:30 a.m.
“The people in the SUV were killed on impact. The collision resulted in a fire and consumed both vehicles in flames,” Saunderson said Thursday, adding a collision analyst was on the scene and at this point there are no cause or factors.
“We don’t know why the vehicle crossed the centre line. We do have a witness that we’ve spoken to and are putting the plea out there that if anyone has any information pre or post collision they feel is important please call the Williams Lake detachment or Crime Stoppers,” Saunderson says.
Insp. Warren Brown of the Williams Lake RCMP said Cariboo Traffic Services had a number of officers from Williams Lake and Quesnel at the scene.
“The passenger vehicle is completely charred as are the people that were travelling inside. It’s likely one of the most horrific accidents that’s occurred within the area in recent years and certainly one of the most devastating accident scenes that our police officers have ever been to, if not the most,” Brown told the Tribune.
The highway was closed up until 1:30 p.m. Thursday, before being open with single alternating lanes and with up to 30-minute delays.
Sgt. Bob Verbree with the RCMP Cariboo-Chilcotin Traffic Services was at the scene and says everything was burning and on fire so it was taking quite a while to get any information.
“That’s what the hold up is here. The investigation is going really slow,” Vebree says, adding it’s going to be some time yet before more details are forthcoming.
George Foster owns the Oasis Pub in McLeese Lake, but also goes to hydro carbon spills, and is the fire warden for the Cariboo Forestry Fire District.
He went to the scene, arriving about 20 minutes after the crash, and says he saw debris spread a quarter of a kilometre southward.
“It was a very disgusting looking site,” Foster says. “The truck looked like it was possibly a loaded 55-foot van.”
“That has been a bad corner for a long long time and there has been previous trucks blown off that edge quite a few times,” Foster says.
Foster has heard some speculation from truckers that an ice fog might have blown through there and laid some ice down because when they drove through at approximately 6:30 a.m., the roads were terrific.
“Who knows? This is the way the truckers were talking on the radio,” Foster says.