An Audi belonging to Jerry Petkau of Salmon Arm is a total write-off after an encounter with a black bear in eastern B.C. on Aug. 6. Petkau was not injured but the bear was killed. (Contributed)

Bear killed after head-on collision near B.C.-Alberta border

Driver faced with split-second choice to hit either semi or animal

The weekly commute from Salmon Arm to Hinton, Alta., is generally pretty routine for Jerry Petkau.

But not last Tuesday.

Petkau, who works for Teck Coal in Hinton, set out for his home in Salmon Arm first thing on Aug. 6.

The weather was a little cloudy and wet, but the roads were good.

As he got to Moose Lake on Highway 16 in Mt. Robson Provincial Park, he could see a semi about to meet him in the eastbound lane.

Just at that moment, a bear suddenly appeared at the top of a steep bank on the semi’s side of the highway.

“The semi was right there. The bear decided to cross the road, it didn’t hesitate. I thought the semi was going to hit it.”

The rest was a bit of a blur for Petkau because it happened so fast.

“I remember seeing the bear and thinking, ‘Oh no.’”

Petkau was travelling around 100 km/h.

He made a slight evasive maneuver, but steered back, realizing the only place his car was going to go was into the other lane.

“I hit the bear, I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes.”

Read more: Bear bites dog, owner punches bear in a northern B.C. encounter

Read more: Stay safe around predators in the North Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more: B.C. wildlife group seeks help after pregnant moose fatally hit by car

He says the hood flew up, covering the windshield, and the engine immediately stalled, compromising the brakes and steering.

Still, he managed to limp the car to the side of the road.

With so much steam — or what he thought might be smoke — coming from the engine, he wasn’t sure if it was going to blow up, so he jumped out.

“The semi driver came running over and he thanked me. He said, ‘I saw you made an evasive move over to my side of the lane and stopped. Any farther you would have hit me.’”

Petkau was in shock for a couple of hours, reeling from what had appeared to be imminent death.

“I was very thankful I was driving an Audi car…The crash features probably saved my life, just the way the car is built. It has a big, heavy steel bumper you never know is there.”

The bear, however, did not fare well.

“It blew the bear apart. The biggest part left was the head.

”The rest of the bear was scattered all over the highway — you could see a paw here, a leg there. Everybody was really surprised the bear was blown into so many pieces.”

A park ranger, who was on scene within 10 minutes, said the animal was about 400 or 500 pounds.

“He said, ‘Boy, you’re lucky; it was a good-sized bear.’”

Read more: Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Read more: Twin bear cubs rescued after mom killed in hit and run on Highway 1

Petkau wondered at the time whether it was being chased by something.

“It was on the run when it came up onto the road. It just grabbed another gear and kept going. It saw the semi; the semi was right there.”

He discounts the chase theory, however. Based on the bear’s size, he doesn’t know what could have intimidated it.

Petkau’s Audi was written off as a total loss. He is grateful he survived, and for the kindness of all those who witnessed the crash and helped him.

He says he has seen deer, moose and bear on the route before, but never in such a tight situation.

“I feel fairly fortunate I haven’t had wildlife encounters to this point. This one sure made up for it.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The interior of an Audi belonging to Jerry Petkau of Salmon Arm after an encounter with a black bear in eastern B.C. on Aug. 6. The vehicle was a write-off and the bear was killed but Petkau was not injured. (Photo contributed)

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Castlegar doctor’s offices remain open for phone, video and in-person appointments

Doctors concerned people may be neglecting health concerns for fear of catching the COVID-19

BRAND NAMES: Cominco, West Kootenay Power, Granby

Consolidated Mining and Smelting (CM&S) became Cominco, then Teck-Cominco, then Teck

Castlegar hospice director says COVID-19 measures make serving the dying heartbreaking

Social distancing brings big challenges to offering support

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Researchers look at humidity as a weapon in the fight against airborne viruses

Regular hand washing, physical distancing and PPE for health care workers remains best line of defense

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read