Chelsea Olsen was left shocked and wondering if her children were okay after a logging truck t-boned her minivan at the corner of Second Avenue and Argyle Street the morning of Feb. 16.
“I was driving up Argyle and the truck failed to stop at the stop sign on Second Avenue,” said Olsen. Her two six-year-old boys, Rain and Kane, were in the car with her when the empty logging truck hit the van.
“I noticed him slowing as he approached the stop sign, but he just slowed and continued through, resulting In him hitting my van in the middle of the intersection.”
The RCMP issued the logging truck a violation ticket for failing to yield the right of way, Cpl. Amelia Hayden said. The truck approached the intersection from the south, driving down the hill.
“On approach to the intersection, the logging truck slowed down but failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign, rolling into the intersection and colliding with the passenger door of the mini van,” Hayden said.
“Weather was noted as a contributing factor as there was light fog and light rain at the time of the crash.”
Olsen said that while she couldn’t tell exactly, she didn’t think that the driver of the logging truck noticed her van at all.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure [but] I don’t think he noticed me at all and if he did it was at the last second,” Olsen said.
“It didn’t seem to me like he put his brakes on before impact because I was watching and I yelled ‘he isn’t stopping’, and tried to turn out of the way.”
The truck collided with the sliding passenger door on the right side of the van and bent it in severely.
“My six-year-old was in that seat [by the crushed door] and the door was touching him when I pulled him out,” she said, adding that her other son was in the seat just behind him. Both boys were in car seats.
While Olsen is still unsettled by the crash, she feels lucky it wasn’t any worse.
“Rain and Kane are only complaining of soreness and headaches. I’m quite stiff and sore throughout my neck and back but luckily that’s it,” she said. ICBC is still reviewing whether or not her vehicle is a write-off but she and her family have been able to procure a new vehicle.
“Luckily he wasn’t going any faster; if he was there would be a totally different outcome.”
Living on First Avenue, this isn’t the first time Olsen has been exposed to truck drivers where they shouldn’t be.
“I live on First Avenue, so my routes are either the industrial [Harbour] road, along the Quay, or Third Avenue, both are fully populated with large trucks, when they should only be using the industrial road and continuing along the road behind the train station,” she said.
Though Olsen—and the police—both say the truck driver should have come to a complete stop before driving across Argyle Street, Olsen doesn’t think he should have been there at all.
“The main issue is he didn’t stop, he slowed, and must not have checked both ways, assumed it was clear and continued and must have glanced the other way,” she said.
“After this I have taken notice of all the trucks on the roads, and I haven’t seen one that has committed to a full stop—which maybe is difficult for them to do, but that is why they shouldn’t be on the main streets.”
Olsen isn’t alone in that thought.
The City of Port Alberni has been considering a dedicated truck route for decades and the issue was brought back to the top of council’s priority list by Coun. Chris Alemany in September 2015.
At the time, Alemany told the rest of council that he had received numerous complaints about the trucks on Third Avenue.
“From a perspective of safety and trying to encourage people to go into Uptown… it would be really good if we could at least encourage companies to take alternate routes when they’re going up to Ship Creek,” he said at the time.
Alemany wasn’t the only one to be concerned—Anderson Avenue resident Vicki Drybrough came to council in November to express concern over the number of trucks in her neighbourhood.
“We have more than enough truck traffic already,” said Drybrough.
“Dump trucks, fuel trucks, tanker trucks, logging trucks, chip trucks, scrap trucks and lumber trucks to name a few.”
But despite Drybrough’s concerns, Alemany still thinks that Anderson Avenue is the best location for industrial traffic—and even more so after last week’s accident.
“I think—and the Anderson residents will hate me for it—I think our only option that we have to get to Ship Creek is the Anderson Avenue corridor,” he said.
“That’s where a lot of industrial traffic is already going.”
Alemany is open to having a discussion with Anderson Avenue residents about how to mitigate issues that could be caused by living on a truck route, particularly where safety is concerned.
“We never did get a full discussion with the residents to get an idea of what they would like to see as far as improvements.”
But while Alemany prefers Anderson Avenue, council seems to be moving towards Harbour Road.
Mayor Mike Ruttan said that negotiations with Western Forest Products on the topic are “proceeding well” and at a staff level.
“The industrial users are incredibly flexible and willing to work with us,” he said, adding that he sees a possibility for cost savings. According to a Stantec study, the first stage of the Harbour Road route would cost $4 million.
“Hopefully, we can do the entire thing at very little cost to the city and certainly not $4 million.”
A report from city staff on truck routes has been delayed and Ruttan said he couldn’t yet release any information on the timeline of events.