A transport truck carrying a hazardous additive used in mining blasting applications rolled over Thursday evening around 6 p.m. 14 kilometres north of Williams Lake.
The accident occurred on Highway 97 near Wildwood, in between West Coast and Hickory Roads. The driver and lone occupant of the truck was airlifted to Vancouver with serious head injuries.
The driver was en route to Mission, said Sgt. Bob Verbree, regional commander, RCMP Cariboo Chilcotin Traffic Services.
Bruce Collinge, president of RBS Bulk Systems from Calgary said the product is called Centra. “It is not actually ammonium nitrate, but it is classified as a hazardous material.”
RBS Bulk has a contract to transport the product from an Orican explosives facility at a site located at Gibraltar Mines.
“Apparently right after the incident there was a small amount of seepage from a rear hatch — the hatch was tightened and the seepage stopped,” College said, adding it is estimated that perhaps 200 kilograms of the hazardous material — which looks like a viscous liquid — seeped out.
Wildwood residents were put on evacuation alert Thursday evening, and a detour was set up to reroute traffic around the scene.
At noon Friday, the Cariboo Regional District issued an emergency services evacuation order as a preventative measure while a hazmat team removed the hazardous material from the scene.
Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Warren Brown said in excess of 50 homes were evacuated within a 400 metre perimeter of the accident scene by RCMP and local Search and Rescue personnel.
A hazmat team then began removing the hazardous material from the truck’s damaged container into a specialized transfer truck.
Ted and Iris Worsley live on West Coast Road, two houses down from Highway 97, and were out collecting their mail Friday morning before the evacuation order.
They knew they were on evacuation alert, but Iris said she wasn’t worried for her own safety.
She’d packed an evacuation bag Thursday night and unpacked it Friday morning.
“We were surprised the accident occurred on a straight stretch of the highway though,” she said, adding there was a spill of lumber on the same stretch of the road last year.
“The Wildwood volunteer fire department is excellent,” Iris added. “They are always there immediately, which I think is phenomenal.”
Wildwood Elementary School remained closed for the day and traffic was detoured away from the cleanup for several hours into the night.
Emergency Services set up a reception centre at the Salvation Army Community Services building on Borland Street in Williams Lake for evacuees that remained open until the evacuation order was lifted at around 10 p.m. Friday night.
“Forty folks registered at the reception centre,” said safer communities co-ordinator Dave Dickson. “Huge thanks to the Williams Lake Salvation Army — captains Randy and Claudine Kadonaga and their team for their hospitality and kindness for opening their facilities.”
The cause of the accident is still under investigation by the RCMP’s Cariboo Chilcotin Traffic Services.