Calls are being renewed to reduce the speed limit on Highway 97 near 70 Mile House after a rogue tire flew off the highway last week and smashed through a family’s dining room window, narrowly missing two people.
Brian Jones was outside his home at about 11:45 a.m onThursday, Sept. 30 when he heard a massive bang and saw a tire and rim flying through the air. It smashed through the double-paned glass of his dining room before hurtling through the living room, where his wife Veronica and 10-year-old grandson S.J. were watching TV.
It happened so fast that Veronica said she didn’t even see the tire bounce between them, punch a hole in the back wall and ricochet to the end of the couch.
“I heard this big explosion, almost like something had blown up. My first thought was ‘we don’t have gas,’” Veronica said. “I looked around and there was glass flying everywhere. I didn’t know what happened. I ran over to S.J. He had glass in his hair and on his shirt. It was pretty flukey.”
Nobody has claimed the tire, which had a well-worn rim with three broken studs.
The couple suspects it came off a trailer at high speed from someone heading north. A survey of the highway by Veronica’s sister as far as 83 Mile found no signs of a breakdown or a vehicle with a missing tire.
Clinton RCMP are reaching out to the public to see if anyone saw anything or captured any dashcam footage, which may help identify the vehicle. Anyone with information is asked to call the Clinton RCMP at 250-459-2221.
“Someone somewhere returned home without that tire. If it was you or you know who it was, please do the right thing and contact police as soon as possible,” said Acting Cpl. Marika Masters.
The incident has prompted renewed calls to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to lower the speed limit on Highway 97 through 70 Mile from 100 km to 50 km.
Thompson Nicola Regional District director Sally Watson, who represents the Bonaparte Plateau, said the current speed limit is too high for a community where houses line the highway and people often walk or ride their horses and bicycles to get to the store or trails. One man regularly rides his horse and cart down the highway.
Watson said she has received a letter of support from the Clinton RCMP and plans to take the issue to the TNRD to help pressure the province to change the limit.
Although there are signs that encourage drivers to reduce their speed to 70 km an hour if they see someone walking, it’s often too late to slow down, especially on the curves, she said.
“We have a two-lane highway going through our community at 100 km an hour. The increase in traffic and the high speed of the traffic is getting terrifying,” she said.
“We have people who walk to the store every day. I’ve ridden my horse across the highway. We need this to happen and we need the help of everyone we can.”
The Jones’ daughter Doris, who rushed to the house as soon her nephew called her, said she was thankful no one was hurt. Her mother usually sits at the dining room table with her computer.
“I was there right away and the tire was still smoking hot. If they’d been sitting at the dining room table, they’d be dead,” Doris said. “For mom and dad to go back there now – they’re terrified. They’re still shaky.”
The couple has lived in their four-bedroom house – a double-wide trailer with an addition – for the past 45 years, raising their family there. Brian said nothing like this has ever happened before, and he was so shocked at seeing the tire flying through the air that he didn’t look to see where it came from.
Veronica noted people tend to “drive at a good clip” through the area and agreed with Watson that a lower speed limit is warranted.
“It needs to be changed, it’s far too dangerous,” she said.
MoTI did not respond to the Free Press by press time Wednesday.
The couple has had to leave the house while clean-up crews repair the window and remove the glass. Almost everything in their living room and dining room will need to be replaced because Veronica is on blood thinners and can’t risk even a tiny cut.
Veronica said they have no idea who will pay for the damage as nobody knows who owns the tire.
“ICBC can’t do anything unless they find the truck and driver,” Veronica said. “Even the insurance lady said ‘I don’t know what to file this under.’ I hope it never happens to anyone else again.”
Veronica said they hope to return home by Sunday, but admits it will be a bit tense.
“It’s going to be a bit nerve-wracking especially having dinner at the dining room table,” Veronica said but added she is grateful “no one got hurt.”
“I think all the saints in heaven were in my front room.”