A rear-end collision at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Ross Street in Salmon Arm last Wednesday turned into a tragedy — a tragedy the family involved never wants to see repeated.
A pick-up truck and a car were stopped at the red light in the eastbound curbside lane about 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 18. A semitrailer loaded with lumber was following too closely, report police. It rear-ended the car, which vaulted forward and hit the pick-up.
Inside the car, which was heavily damaged, was a woman and her 20-year-old daughter, who was pregnant.
Following the crash, the young woman had to undergo an emergency cesarean section. She and the baby were airlifted afterward to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“Baby Lexi was born prematurely at 31 weeks and in serious condition,” writes Sarah Payment, sister of the baby’s dad. “She was transported to Vancouver Children’s Hospital. On January 20th, Baby Lexi passed away peacefully and will always be in our hearts.”
Friends and family have sent up a Go Fund Me account online to help raise funds for the parents, Courtney Yanciw and Matthew Longridge.
“They’re obviously a very young couple,” she said, noting the funds could be used to cover expenses while the couple has time for grieving, or to help pay for Lexi’s burial. “Obviously they’re extremely devastated.”
Courtney was staying in Salmon Arm with her mom Crystal Hartley and spouse Mike Guze, but was going to move to the Lower Mainland the day after the accident to be with Matthew who had just found a place for them, Payment explained.
“It’s been a tough go, it’s very unfortunate.”
Sean Longridge, Matthew’s father and Baby Lexi’s grandfather, makes a plea for truckers to slow down at such intersections to prevent any more deaths.
“I want more signage or someone to make the trucks not follow too close to people and have more regards for the public. Apparently it’s quite common for the semis to blow through the lights,” he said, referring to a crash on Dec. 24 two intersections west.
“I don’t know what to do, my wife and I don’t want any more people to die.”
Payment says the family doesn’t want to lay blame for the death, but wants truckers to be aware.
Guze, also devastated, echoes the sentiment.
“Basically, just to slow them down. They try to judge the light, and they judged this one wrong.”
The driver of the semi was issued a violation ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act.
The Dec. 24 collision, which took place when a semi ran the red light at Shuswap Street and struck a Transit bus, left the bus driver with minor injuries. That collision was caught on video and prompted outrage from residents.
In 2006, a resident driving a van was struck and killed by a semi as it went through the red light at the Trans-Canada Highway and Alexander Street intersection – one intersection west of the Jan. 18 collision.
After the 2006 death, city council tried to get a red light camera or cameras installed downtown, but the transportation ministry was not willing because there were higher priority intersections in the province with more traffic and more problems. It was also suggested a camera might cause more rear-enders.
The Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce did a traffic study last year which took place over six days in June, four hours each day. A total of 21,312 vehicles were counted, 91 per cent passenger and nine per cent commercial. The lights between Shuswap and Fourth Avenue were observed.
The study showed 1.1 per cent of all commercial vehicles and one per cent of all passenger vehicles ran a red light. That’s21 commercial trucks (18-wheelers, cube vans, anything over five tons) and 194 passenger vehicles.
As for speeding, 14.7 per cent of commercial and 8.1 per cent of passenger vehicles were clocked over the limit.
With the highway four-laning and Salmon River Bridge replacement going ahead at the west end of town, the chamber has emphasized now is a perfect time to incorporate ways to slow down traffic entering the community.
One recommendation is having digital reader boards at both ends of town, alerting drivers they’re entering a densely populated business area with multiple lights and much foot traffic.