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Brake check saves trucker from BC rock slide

PORTEAU COVE, B.C. -- If a truck driver hadn't stopped for a quick brake check before taking his rig down a steep g...

PORTEAU COVE, B.C. — If a truck driver hadn’t stopped for a quick brake check before taking his rig down a steep grade into Britannia Beach he thinks he might have been caught in the rock slide that closed the Sea-to-Sky highway near Porteau Cove, B.C., according to a story published by

As it was, Rick Pennington, a Burnaby trucker who was ferrying food in two refrigerator trailers back to Vancouver from the weekend Pemberton rock festival, arrived at the slide minutes after the rock came tumbling down Tuesday night. Pennington, of Mundie’s Towing, Storage and Service, said as he checked his brakes, five vehicles passed him on the road.

“When we got here (the slide site), three of the five vehicles made it through,” said Pennington, who slept in his rig overnight with colleague Wayne McInnis. “Two of them didn’t. They were stopped by the blockage. I could still see the dirt and the dust in the air. You could feel it on your face. If we hadn’t stopped for a brake check in Britannia, we could have been in it.”

Pennington had to stay at the scene all night because the slide occurred in a narrow two-lane section of the highway where he couldn’t turn his rig around. He was hoping to be accompanied across the slide area on foot, where he could be picked up on the other side. His truck would then be picked up by someone from Squamish.
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has announced that it will be at least four more days before the Sea to Sky Highway reopens. The slide, the largest on Highway 99 in recent memory, inconvenienced thousands and raised fears about the reliability of the main link between Vancouver and Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The slide, which occurred one kilometre south of Furry Creek, means motorists travelling from Vancouver to Whistler usually a two-hour drive must now detour through Lillooet and Hope, adding at least four hours to their journey. Falcon said his ministry has been in talks with BC Ferries about operating a temporary passenger ferry to bypass the slide. BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said it has an engineer in the area and has been looking at the logistics of running a small, 20-car ferry between Porteau Cove and Squamish. However, the only dock ramp in Squamish that could handle such a roll-off ferry, at Darrell Bay, hasn’t been used in three years.

CN Rail tracks runs parallel to the Sea-to-Sky highway in this area, which have also been damaged. CN has yet to determine a timeline, about return-to-service.

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