One of first witnesses on scene of fatal TCH crash joins first responders in calls for barriers

One of first witnesses on scene of fatal TCH crash joins first responders in calls for barriers

WATCH: One of the first bystanders to arrive at the scene of a fatal head-on crash on the Trans-Canada Highway Sunday believes a median barrier could have prevented it. April Lawrence reports.

Rhe Arsenau was driving on the Trans-Canada Highway in Langford on Sunday when he came across a grisly scene near Leigh Road.

“It’s horrific, that was horrific,” he said.

Two cars had just crashed head-on The driver of an Acura, a 24-year-old Nanaimo man was pronounced dead at the scene and his three passengers were seriously injured. Arsenau, a military veteran, jumped into action while his 13-year-old son called 911. Seven other witnesses also joined in to help.

“Once we woke up some of the victims they were talking to them, keeping them awake which is really important,” said Arsenau.

It was the second fatal crash on the small winding section of highway, between Leigh Road and Westshore Parkway, in just a month. A 70-year-old man was killed there after a head-on crash in early January.

Arsenau, who has lived in the area for 15 years, says residents have been calling for barriers for years.

“You talk to anybody in the community that is on this side of Leigh Road they all will say the same exact thing,” he said.

Including city officials and first responders who are now calling it an emergency.

“How many times do you have to go to the same stretch of highway and see a loss of life before you finally have to say enough’s enough, let’s get this done,” said Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey.

The Liberal government committed to installing barriers and widening the highway in 2016 but work still hasn’t started.

The Transportation Ministry says it’s been focused on priority projects like the McKenzie interchange and the Malahat and it’s now ready to move forward on projects like the one at Leigh road. A spokesperson says they will look at potential short-term safety measures once the RCMP determine what caused Sunday’s fatal crash.

Aubrey, Langford’s mayor, and the head of the West Shore RCMP have now sent letters to Premier John Horgan and the transportation minister. Inspector Todd Preston wrot,e “we cannot wait for any provincial government studies or reports before a solution to this issue is put into place.”

Rhe Arsenau says he and his son have met with the Acura passengers, two men and a woman all in their 20’s, who survived Sunday’s crash.

“They’re all recovering, they’re in good spirits,” he said.

He believes barriers would have saved their friend who was driving.

Full statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure:

“The ministry is well aware of the tragic collisions that occurred on Sunday and earlier this year. Our hearts go out to all those involved.

The ministry is currently working with the RCMP to understand what factors led up to these crashes. Once we have this information, ministry staff will look at the potential for  short-term engineering options to improve safety. Any consideration of short-term improvements will need to complement existing long-term design work that has already been completed, which includes four-laning this two-kilometre section of highway between Leigh Road and West Shore Parkway and adding median barriers.

When undertaking major construction projects on our highways, it is important to consider the impact to traffic flow and current delays from other existing projects.

Currently, the McKenzie interchange project is being built roughly 15 kilometers away from Leigh Road. This past fall, the Malahat Village Safety Improvement project wrapped up less than ten kilometres away from the intersection of Highway 1 and West Shore Parkway. In addition, the ministry recently completed work to open northbound priority bus lanes on Douglas Street.

Now that these important projects have been completed or are nearing completion, we anticipate moving forward with other safety priorities in the region, including the Leigh Road four-laning and median barrier project.”

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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