November 30, 2010 at 2:45 PM
Paramedics Deaths Prompt Review of Highway Safety
By Kevin Drews
The Canadian Press
PORT ALBERNI, B.C. — The deaths of two paramedics on their way back to the west coast of Vancouver Island after taking a patient to a nearby hospital has prompted a review of the safety measures in place on the treacherous stretch of highway where they died.
The ambulance jumped a retaining wall, tumbled down a steep cliff and crashed into Kennedy Lake near Tofino, B.C., on Oct. 19, killing paramedics Jo-Ann Fuller, 59, and Ivan Polivka, 65. The longtime paramedics were on their way back from Port Alberni when the accident happened.
Transport Minister Shirley Bond said she and the area MLA, New Democrat Scott Fraser, will look at the height of the retaining wall located close to the accident site.
''Both of us want to make sure people who live in British Columbia have safe highways to drive on,'' Bond said Thursday. ''We will work to continue to find ways to improve what is a challenging stretch of highway.''
The retaining wall where the ambulance left Highway 4 is about 0.3 metres high.
Bond said the issue is complicated because a mountain is located on one side of the highway and the retaining wall is located on the other side.
She said she has asked ministry engineers to look at what can be done.
Bond said that since 2001, the ministry has spent tens of millions of dollars on improvements on Highway 4, which include rumble strips and better signage.
Fraser said the ministry has agreed to give him a report that identifies 13 risk factors along the highway — one of which is the retaining wall.
''The minister committed to having her deputy work with me to look at all the risk factors of Highway 4,'' he said.
Fraser said he expects the field trip to take place early in the new year.
''I was surprised with the level of co-operation,'' he said of his talks with Bond. ''She was very sympathetic towards the loss.''
Fuller, 59, had been a paramedic for 23 years, and 65-year-old Ivan Polivka, who started with the service 14 years ago, was preparing to retire in the Yukon.
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