31 Oct How a dangerous left turn left to tragedy on Malahat
KATIE DEROSA / TIMES COLONIST
OCTOBER 28, 2016 09:19 AM
UPDATED: OCTOBER 29, 2016 10:25 AM
Crash on Malahat near near McCurdy Drive on Oct. 27, 2016
Two vehicles crashed on the Malahat near McCurdy Drive during rush hour on Thursday afternoon. Oct. 27, 2016. Photograph By Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park
The 61-year-old man killed in a T-bone crash on the Malahat Thursday night has been identified by friends as Matt Quirk, a husband and father.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Ron Sykora, who has known Quirk for eight years.
“I’m sad to see him go.”
Quirk’s red minivan was struck by a white pickup after he tried to make a left-hand turn from the far-right northbound lane into the Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park, where he lived after moving from Langford about a month ago.
The pickup truck hit the van driver’s door and the impact sent the two vehicles careening into a southbound-lane barrier on the shoulder.
The crash about 5 p.m. near McCurdy Drive closed the highway in both directions for about three hours, snarling traffic. Quirk was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
“Despite the best life-saving efforts we could provide, the injuries were too great for him to survive,” said Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson.
Quirk was a trustworthy and reliable mechanic, said Sykora, and the two would trade work. Quirk lived with his wife, Valerie, and their two German shepherds, Bubbles and Asker. He was from Newfoundland and flew to the East Coast regularly to see relatives.
Art Lawrence, who manages the RV park, said he had seen Quirk make that illegal left turn in the past and warned him that it was dangerous.
Lawrence said other residents also have made the left turn instead of driving up to the U-turn route at Shawnigan Lake Road.
“We see people doing it all the time,” Lawrence said. “We can only tell them through experience that it’s dangerous.”
Patterson, who has long advocated for barriers along the centre of the Malahat highway, said a median could have prevented the crash by making a left turn impossible.
“This is a 110 per cent preventable incident,” he said.
Sykora agreed. “If that was all median, that would have saved his life.”
The driver of the pickup was taken to Victoria General Hospital but was not seriously injured.
Victoria lawyer Rajinder Sahota said that every year he represents several clients in injury claims after crashes on the Malahat. Sahota said he welcomes the $34 million in safety upgrades that are planned for the five-kilometre section of the highway between Shawnigan Lake Road and Aspen Road.
Construction on the Malahat, set to start next year, will expand the highway to four lanes through Malahat Village and add three kilometres of median barriers.
“We have to applaud the government for dedicating those resources. But for those who have already suffered catastrophic injuries or death, from their perspective it’s going to seem like too little, too late,” Sahota said.
“We’ve all known about this problem for decades.”
Sahota said the Ministry of Transportation could be held liable for damages if it’s proven the government did not meet the duty of care required in providing safe roadways and infrastructure.
In 2011, a trial judge found the ministry 10 per cent liable for a crash at Blanshard Street and Cloverdale Avenue that seriously injured Selina Meghji.
In a statement, the ministry said: “While our highways are built to nationally accepted safety standards, staff work closely with RCMP, first responders, emergency services, municipalities and other local stakeholders regarding future and ongoing safety enhancements. We also regularly remind drivers to take every precaution to drive safely, including checking Drive B.C. when planning your trip and to be aware and drive to conditions while on the road.”
There were 18 fatalities on the Malahat corridor between 2004 and 2014, according to ICBC.
South Island Traffic Services and the B.C. Coroners Service are investigating Thursday’s crash.
“The RCMP would like to thank the public for their patience during the investigation of this tragic collision,” said Const. Barry Darling from RCMP South Island traffic.
Any witnesses to the crash are asked to call South Island Traffic Services at 250-416-0352.
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HAVE A SAY ON MALAHAT SAFETY
The public will get a chance to weigh in on the Malahat safety improvement project at an information session next week.
More information will be released about safety upgrades to the Trans-Canada Highway between Shawnigan Lake Road and Aspen Road. Staff from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will be on hand to discuss the upgrades.
The drop-in session is open from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Crooks Hall Building at Brentwood College, 2735 Mt. Baker Rd. in Mill Bay.
Information will also be posted online at gov.bc.ca/malahatsafetyimprovements.