A number of incidents on area roads and highways ranging in severity from relatively minor to very major kept members of the local RCMP Detachment along with the fire department and ambulance service very busy over the weekend of Oct. 17 to 19.
The first involved a combine fire on Friday, Oct. 17, which occurred on the Lockhart Road approximately six kilometres south of Rimbey.
According to Cst. Bill Coulthard of the local RCMP the combine had completed work for the day and was returning home when a fire broke out on or below the floor on the right side of the cab.
By the time police and the fire department arrived, the combine was fully engulfed in flames with the exception of its tires and had moved to the back of the machine where it also burned the hopper.
No one was injured as a result of the fire however it is believed the combine was a total write-off. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.
On the following afternoon, police responded to a call of an overturned tanker truck on Highway 53 approximately six kilometres west of the community.
Upon arrival, police found the Medicine Valley Transport rig to be lying on its side on the edge of the highway with a full-sized pup trailer that had detached from the rig, in the ditch.
Although not carrying any flammable or dangerous fluid, the rig was hauling a mixture of condensate and salt water used to flush out well sites.
According to Coulthard, the driver and lone occupant of the truck was treated for minor injuries at the Rimbey Hospital and released. In the cab along with the driver was a dog which had been covered in the fluid at some point in the rollover.
The dog was transported to a local veterinarian clinic where it was washed, checked for injuries and released with a clean bill of health.
The cause of the rollover is still under investigation and no word has been received regarding the laying of any charges.
Later that day at approximately 8:00 p.m., the RCMP and emergency services were called to the site of a collision which occurred at the intersection of the bypass on the northern edge of Rimbey and Highway 20 north.
Upon arrival, police found that a westbound Ford F350 had proceeded through a stop sign and onto the highway where it struck a southbound Chevrolet pickup truck directly between the front and back wheels.
As a result of the collision, the driver of the Ford, along with one of the occupants of the Chevrolet were transported to the local hospital for minor injuries and released. Another occupant of the Chevrolet however, sustained much more serious injuries and was transported by air ambulance to an Edmonton hospital.
Within only a matter of minutes the police had determined that neither occupants of the Chevrolet were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the collision. In a rather graphic manner and in an attempt to explain to the public the vital importance of always wearing a seatbelt, Coulthard knew immediately that they had not, even without seeing either victim.
“It’s easy to tell if they don’t have their seatbelts on in a collision like that because all you have to do is look at the inside of the cab,” he said. “Of course the inside of the cab is destroyed and in one big mess. The glove box, everything around the steering column, it’s all destroyed because that’s what their knees, and their ribs, and their spleen and their liver and everything else contacted at the time of the collision.”
In a bit of an ironic twist, the westbound truck had sheared off a light pole standard that had recently been installed to install traffic lights at that intersection. As a result, the project has been set back for an extended period of time. Either way, Coulthard said the addition of lights would be very welcomed.
“Indeed. It lights up that intersection,” he said. “On black nights with no moon or stars out, it’s a black intersection. There’s a stop sign there, but if it’s too dark, drivers may not see it.”
As for the occupants of vehicles not wearing their seatbelts, Coulthard said there is a certain segment of the population that, despite all the warnings and all the graphic footage of collision scenes on television, still refuse to buckle-up.
“I think you’re going to find that there’s a certain group of people in this world that it doesn’t matter how many seatbelt tickets they get, they’re still not going to wear them,” he said. “Until the government steps in and starts putting points on your driver’s license, or the insurance companies start looking at your driving record and saying, ‘hey you’ve got six seatbelts tickets in the last year and a half and you’re becoming a high risk, so now we’re going to double your insurance.’ Until you start hitting people where it hurts – in the pocket, people aren’t going to change their attitude.”
As evidence of that fact, Coulthard pointed to a recent safety belt campaign held in Rimbey on Oct. 10 when 35 tickets were issued to drivers and/or occupants who were not wearing their seatbelts.
Further, Coulthard said the vast majority of those drivers fall into the category described above and were repeat offenders. Using the example of the collision at the intersection, he also added that ultimately, everyone pays for the negligence of a few.
“The big thing is that it costs you and me through our insurance,” he said. “The guy that they airlifted out the other night for example, he had to be dealt with by our hospital staff, our ambulance, and then dealt with by STARS – go rent a helicopter and see how much that costs; then flown to Edmonton to be treated up there, and who’s paying for all this? It’s you and me through our insurance.”
The collision remains under investigation and charges are pending. As of press time, no word had been received regarding the cause of the collision or the condition of the occupant who was airlifted out.
Crews had barely finished cleaning up debris from the intersection collision when another call came in, this time involving a single-vehicle rollover on the Medicine Lake Road.
According to Coulthard, officers who arrived on the scene found the truck immediately however the driver and/or occupants could not be located. It was later reported that the driver had somehow made his way to Rocky Mountain House where he sought medical treatment.
That incident is also under investigation.
With the winter season quickly approaching, Coulthard also took the time to remind the public of a number of key points associated with their vehicles and driving practices on wet or icy roads.
In addition to recommending drivers put on winter tires, he also suggested ensuring the vehicle is in good running order and highly suggested changing the window-washer fluid from the pink-coloured variety which will freeze instantly when hitting a cold windshield and could result in the driver becoming unable to see properly, to one designed for much colder temperatures.
He also advised drivers to exercise caution when traveling early in the mornings, especially at this time of the year when highways are usually frozen overnight but begin to thaw when the sun rises.
“Pay attention, especially in these areas – and you’ll see it where you get the frost on the road, then the sun comes up and melts the frost, but the sun doesn’t take the frost off on the south side of the highway,” he said of portion of the road that are in the shade. “The area between Rimbey and Ponoka can be just like a skating rink with the hoar frost on it.”