Emma Machado would have turned 20-years-old on Tuesday.
But instead of celebrating, her family is left only with memories of the bright young University of Victoria student who was killed in a crash on Bamfield Road nearly two years ago.
“We’ll spend the day reflecting on Emma, and it’s hard for me to even try to imagine what she would be like if she was here, I guess she’s forever 18 in our memories,” said Machado’s mother, Dr. Ethel MacIntosh from her home in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Machado and 18-year-old John Geerdes from Iowa were killed after the bus they were in rolled down an embankment on a remote logging road in September 2019. The two had been heading to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre as part of a UVic field trip.
On Tuesday, it was announced that work has now begun to improve safety on the road is one, small, piece of comfort for Machado’s family.
“Too late for us but hopefully the fixes save future lives,” said MacIntosh.
Local Indigenous and community leaders have been calling for improvements to Bamfield Main for decades. In September, the province announced a 3-year, $30 million dollar plan to upgrade it, with plans to include re-engineering and paving.
Now, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation says funding has officially been approved and preliminary design work has begun.
“We now know it’s going to happen for sure so that’s what we’re excited about,” said Chief Robert Dennis.
The roughly 76 kilometre stretch of road is the only way in and out of the community, so while the main goal is to improve safety, the First Nation says it will also bring with it new economic opportunities and, likely, population growth.
“Some Huu-Ay-Aht people have told us if the road was improved they would consider moving home and we anticipate that’ll change dramatically moving forward,” said Dennis.
With design work underway, road work is expected to begin in June.