West Kootenay Traffic Services has concluded mechanical malfunction and driver error contributed to the cause of the fatal truck accident at the bottom of the Rossland hill on May 3.
The Commercial B Train truck was fully loaded with cement blocks when it lost control at the intersection of Highway 3B and Tennyson Ave. and careened off the road into an empty field killing the driver and injuring a Village of Warfield employee who was working nearby.
The BC Coroners Service, which is also investigating the accident, has not released its final report or the name of the deceased driver.
“This driver was a little unfamiliar with the area,” Corporal John Ferguson told the Trail Times on Wednesday.
“What we think happened is that one of the brakes on his rear trailer was not working properly. This, combined with the driver trying to downshift and mistakenly putting the gear into neutral, caused the truck to gain momentum.”
Ferguson explained that this theory can never really be proven, but by mistakenly shifting gear, and overheating the brakes, the truck became “like a rolling ball that could not be stopped.”
“We will never know why he didn’t use the runaway lanes, but it is speculated that he thought he could get the truck back into control by shifting gears.”
The 50-year-old Ontario truck driver had been employed with Sutco Contracting, a Salmo-based trucking company, for two weeks.
The day of the accident, the truck was headed to Korpack Cement Products in Annable to deliver cement cinder blocks before heading to the Salmo yard.
“Most truckers will go through Castlegar and then head back up the hill,” said Ferguson. “You may see a lot of full trucks going up the hill, but most heading down are empty.”
Warfield Mayor Bert Crockett said that the village met with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways last Friday to exchange information and discuss the need for an arrestor bed or bypass on the hill.
“We will try to pursue this and push it but we really need to wait until we have all the information,” said Crockett. “We don’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions, so until the coroner releases a final report, we don’t want to make decisions based on emotion.”
Glen Wakefield, Director of Human Resources at Sutco, said that although there are preferential routes to drive, ultimately the decision is up to the driver.
Wakefield said that the driver came to the company with 13 years of verified driving experience and passed all criteria required for employment.
“It was horrific and there is not one person in our building who does not mourn for our driver.”