If it wasn’t for the strength of a large tree, the semi-truck and trailer that crashed onto the boulevard of the Red Lion Inn on Thursday could have ended in a catastrophe with numerous fatalities.
The immense size of the tree sprawled across the road, and initial concerns of safety, led to a complete shut down of Douglas. Southbound traffic was closed until 5 p.m. from Boleskine Avenue. Single-lane northbound traffic was reopened just before noon.
The actual incident happened at about 10:45 a.m. The heavy-duty semi-truck, hauling a full tank of powdered cement, was traveling northbound when it veered into the southbound lanes of Douglas Street at the 3300-block.
The truck hopped the curb and onto the sidewalk where it crashed over the tree, uprooting it as it slid sideways and came to a stop. The cab stopped just three metres from the door to the V Lounge night club.
“It appears the driver suffered a medical emergency just prior to the crash, and police have ruled out drugs or alcohol,” said Saanich Police acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie.
“I’d definitely say if it wasn’t for the tree, the truck’s trajectory certainly suggests it would likely have driven into the Red Lion’s V-Lounge, or into one of the storefronts in the immediate vicinity [a restaurant and the Red Lion Beer and Wine].”
The clerk at the beer and wine sits just 1.5 metres from the door, clearly at risk had the truck continued.
The driver, a man in his 50s, was miraculously able to free himself from the heavily wrecked cab of the truck and walk away. Witnesses reported his head was bleeding. He was seen on a stretcher and taken to hospital.
At the time of the incident Saanich dispatch immediately received a number of 911 calls about the truck.
Initial reports created some confusion. One report believed two cars were trapped under the trailer while others, including early media reports, thought the trailer carried a combustible fuel.
Neither turned out to be true.
Another said the truck and trailer had actually crashed into the Inn.
A crash analyst team is working with commercial vehicle inspectors to piece together the events of the incident, Leslie said.
Capital Tree Service began removing the tree at 12:30 p.m. (Inset photo)