Calgary man warns Trans-Canada Highway drivers after stepdaughter killed by rock fall

A Calgary man worries about the safety of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, British Columbia

Her daughter-in-law was killed there by a rock fall, and her daughter and grandchildren narrowly avoided being injured.

Laura Tennant, his wife Lisa and their two young children were driving from Cochrane to British Columbia on March 4 to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

“These two were fantastic moms who would never take chances with their kids,” Lisa’s father, Alan Tennant, said from his home in Calgary.

Tennant said Lisa was driving. He was in a vehicle with his wife, about an hour behind the couple. Alan said they were talking to the kids on the phone.

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“The children were having fun in the back seat, they were intervening. Laura had said something funny. The anticipation of being together very soon was there,” he recalled.

“We could feel Laura’s very last seconds were pure joy. Then we heard this horrible crash and screams. We didn’t hear Laura’s voice and very quickly it became clear that something catastrophic had happened.

About four kilometers east of Golden, a boulder broke through the roof of the jeep. Laura died of her injuries. Lisa and the girls were spared.

“The boulder came to rest between the children in their car seats. It was a miracle it wasn’t more catastrophic,” Tennant said.

“It’s a very narrow piece of road with an extreme cliff on the driver’s side. They were heading west and Lisa had the presence of mind to stay in control and think about protecting the family,” Tennant said.

He is now pushing for greater awareness of rockfall hazards on this section of Highway 1.

“We’ve driven this road literally hundreds of times and I can’t remember ever seeing so many boulders – and boulders of this size – on the highway. If it had been shared in advance – that there was a greater risk – I think we would have come, like we did when we got home, via Radium.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said:

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victims of the recent rockfall incident on Highway 1 in Kicking Horse Canyon. This is a tragic incident related to the freeze/thaw conditions that frequently occur at this period of the year.

The statement also said the recent rockfall occurred next to the existing fence.

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“It’s a risk that people need to be more aware of and I think the BC government really needs to consider making better use of these digital signs or social media,” Tennant said.

“Ultimately it went through the roof of that vehicle and I think we have to look at other ways to mitigate that risk.”

According to the press release, the landslide was not related to the work in progress on the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 Project.

“Rockfalls are a hazard along many British Columbia highways and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has dedicated staff and resources working to identify, prioritize and mitigate rockfall hazards. stones throughout the province. Rockfall protection near this site predates the project and was installed by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in an area identified by geotechnical engineers.

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The Trans-Canada Highway through Kicking Horse Canyon traverses very difficult terrain with areas susceptible to rockfall, avalanches, and other natural hazards. Although it is not possible to identify and mitigate all natural hazards, previous work in the area has reduced the risk and has included the rockfall protection net which predates the launch of the Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 project.”

According to the release, construction experts and engineers are working to ensure public safety at the site and that the highway is safe for travel during construction.

“As construction work progresses on the project, the contractor will construct larger catchment ditches and new rockfall protection which will increase the level of safety and reduce the risk of rockfalls at the future.” said the spokesperson.

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Tennant hopes to learn from this tragedy.

“Laura was an expert skier but she didn’t take any risks. She always evaluated and researched. I think most parents would want to know what the risk was before making a choice and not assume, because we also know that stretch of road, that it’s manageable. For us it is forbidden until we know for sure that it is a safe road again.

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“Ultimately it went through the roof of that vehicle and I think we have to look at other ways to mitigate that risk.”

Expected completion of Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 is winter 2023-24.

By April 2022, the highway will be open with 30-minute stops. A spokesperson for BC Transportation said shutdowns will typically occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. and there will also be complete overnight closures.

This summer during the day, the highway through the canyon will remain fully open. Overnight interruptions can range from 20 minutes downtime to 8 hours downtime.

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