CALGARY, Alta. -- While most Calgarians’ focus was on the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, a group of truckers was forming a convoy to honour a colleague whose truck was slammed into at a dangerous highway intersection northeast of the Stampede city.
The convoy, organized by Michael ‘Motor’ Rosenau, a long-time Calgary-area trucker himself and a past Truck News Owner/Operator of the Year, was in memory of Wes Brooks. Known to his friends as “Smurf,” Brooks was killed on June 16 – the day before Father’s Day – when the 21-year-old driver of an SUV apparently ran a stop sign and slammed his vehicle into the side of Brooks’ truck. According to the Calgary Sun, Brooks was pronounced dead at the scene, while the 21-year-old and his 18-year-old female passenger were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries.”
Brooks, 56, left behind a wife and family.
Convoy organizer Rosenau has his own history at that intersection.
“Three years ago, on Remembrance Day, my boys and I were on our way to Irricana,” Rosenau said, noting that the trip was an annual pilgrimage for his personal moment of silence honouring his World War II veteran grandparents. “There was a guy stopped at the stop sign and all of a sudden he just darted out in front of me. I swerved to miss him and he T-boned us and shot us sideways and we rolled into the ditch there.”
Rosenau said he was trapped in his pickup until a Good Samaritan came along and “we pried the doors open. I still have the shoulder injury that bothers me to this day.”
He organized the convoy partly as a way to make up for the fact that he was away for his friend Wes’ memorial service.
“I had wanted to be there to show my respect but I couldn’t get back from Saskatchewan,” he said. “He and (Brooks’ wife) Diana mean a lot to me. I lived with them for a brief time and I talked to him on the phone just about every week. He had a laugh you’d never forget and was always joking around or laughing.”
Thirteen trucks turned out for the memorial convoy, which started “just outside of Irricana on Hwy. 9,” Rosenau said, “and we went by the corner where the accident had happened.”
They didn’t stop at the actual site, though, because “it’s such a high-risk corner, we didn’t want to create any problems.”
They carried on into Calgary, parked their fleet in a Northeast warehouse lot and waited for Diana and the family to arrive.
“They had a flag they wanted all the people in the convoy to sign,” Rosenau said, “so we hung out for a good part of the afternoon, visiting and telling stories about Wes and stuff like that.”
Rosenau said he doesn’t understand the problem with that particular intersection, which is basically unremarkable except for its history.
“There’s lots of visibility, there’s no obstructions on either corner,” he said. “There’s a house that’s probably 100 yards in from one corner but it’s not anywhere near the intersection so it’s not obstructing the view.”
There are rumble strips at the intersection, he noted, but “when I drove over them I didn’t even realize I’d driven over them. They’re just barely there.”
Rosenau said another driver told him he’d been talking with the government about the intersection, “and they told him they can’t dig (the rumble strips) down any deeper because of that house on the corner – because of the noise, which I think is a crock because it’s far enough in that (the resident) probably doesn’t even hear it.”
Unfortunately, more obvious rumble strips probably wouldn’t have helped Brooks. “The guy went through the stop sign at highway speed, so it was a major collision,” he said, “so obviously there was no paying attention or whatever. I just don’t understand. The officer who came out the day I had my accident told me he’s out there at least two to three times every week.”
Rosenau puts it down to drivers not paying attention. “They get out in the rural areas and it seems like everyone forgets how to drive. The guy that hit us, he was trying to beat a grain trailer coming the other direction and he didn’t even see me until he hit me. I was looking at him as I was going in front of him and he didn’t turn his head until the impact – he didn’t see me until that moment.”
According to the Calgary Sun, Brooks was merely the latest of at least four fatalities at or near the intersection since 2000. “How many people have to die there before they do something serious?” Rosenau asked. “We’re making a bunch of noise about it, but they say they’ve done as much as they can at that intersection.”