Local grandmother, Mary Fortier, and her granddaughter River remain in hospital after a vehicle collision on Highway 5 north of Barriere over May long weekend.
Fortier was driving home on Highway 5 at approximately 8:30 p.m. on May 20, with her two young grandchildren, River Fortier, 10, and Jason Rainer, 8, in her 2013 Ford Escape, when her vehicle was struck by a southbound 2018 Mercedes C300, according to RCMP.
The Mercedes hit the SUV in an area not far from the small community of Darfield. RCMP report that speed was a factor, resulting in the fatality of the driver of the Mercedes, and sending Fortier, her grandchildren, and the passenger in the Mercedes to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
Fortier and her granddaughter live in the community of Simpcw First Nation, only a short distance from Darfield and the Rainer Ranch, both just north of Barriere. Grandson Jason resides at the Rainer Ranch and this was where they were going for a ‘sleepover’ the night of the collision.
River and Jason are very close says Jason’s dad, Ben Rainer.
“They are hardly ever apart and were just returning from a friend’s birthday party in Kamloops with Grandma Mary when they were hit,” he said, noting it is not far from where they live at a location referred to locally as the ‘jumps’ or ‘Pig’s Corner.’
“Mary enjoys her time with the ‘kiddos,’” said Rainer, in a May 27 interview with Black Press Media, noting she often stays overnight with them at the ranch instead of driving back late to Chu Chua.
“Mary isn’t fond of driving in the dark as it is,” he said, given how “crazy” the highway has become. He suspects she will avoid the stretch at night completely now unless some major changes are made to the roadway.
Recently Rainer posted a plea on Facebook for the public to share his post and contact their local MLAs and the provincial government with regards to repairing this dangerous section of Highway 5 known as the ‘jumps.’
“Water running underneath the pavement has deteriorated the foundation to the point of it becoming wavy, uneven,” explained Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer. He said many go too fast through the section, despite posted slower speed limit signs in both directions along what he describes as “a relatively unmonitored section of the highway.”
He knows that assessments by engineers and construction will take time and require attention from the provincial government with regards to funding.
“We obviously need more consistent enforcement, whether that’s CVSE or Highway Patrol and more serious flashing signage going both north and south just before you hit the roller coaster there,” said Stamer, calling for immediate enforcement action and suggesting flashing lights. He said public awareness and posts like Ben Rainer’s help by supporting local government efforts.
Stamer said the District of Barriere is partnering together with Simpcw, Clearwater and Valemount to put pressure on the provincial government.
Jason Rainer has returned home to his family this weekend from Royal Inland Hospital but said he is missing his cousin, River, knowing that she will remain in the hospital for a few more weeks.
Both Mayor Blackwell from Clearwater, Mayor Stamer from Barriere and Simpcw community members have been reaching out to the family in a show of support but Ben Rainer says they haven’t heard from other officials in the provincial government yet.
“Angie and I just brought Jason back home last night,” said Ben Rainer, adding they expect River will be in the hospital for a few more weeks and Mary will most likely be in the hospital for three to five more weeks. He reports Mary is in good spirits.
He said Jason and River tell each other they will “be alright”, but the incident has hit their older daughter the hardest.
“We keep things as upbeat as possible and openly discuss things with the kids,” he said.
Rainer told Black Press Media he has contacted all family members involved for permission to share the story with the public.
“Perhaps by doing this it will save a life or at least get some changes made,” he said.
“We all know it’s important.”