A 65-year-old man who tragically lost his life after a logging truck rollover Saturday (Oct. 19) on Highway 99 is remembered as a gregarious man with a passion for motorcycles and a philanthropic spirit.
On Tuesday (Oct. 22), the B.C. Coroners Service confirmed the identity of the West Vancouver man as Hugh Craig Roberts, who was riding his motorcycle Saturday afternoon when a northbound logging truck lost its load. He was remembered fondly by friend and fellow motorcycle enthusiast Bryan Hodson, who knew the victim for over 35 years.
“He was a very special person,” said Hodson. “He was a guy that was very much involved in the community and took care of all kinds of people. He's the kind of guy that would not only rip the shirt off his back for you, but he'd tear out his molars if he thought you needed the gold.”
Hodson worked with Roberts for many years, but the pair bonded over their love of motorcycles, riding together in a club for more than 13 years. The former pilot was also remembered for his encyclopaedic knowledge of history and strong sense of humour.
“He was a gregarious, humorous man, very intelligent and he had near total recall for events in history, and especially jokes,” Hodson said. “He would often regale his riding buddies and anyone else who would listen with a huge number of jokes, probably running close to 100. We would lovingly ascribe a number to these jokes when inevitably they would be regurgitated. He had one for every occasion.”
Hodson said his friend was “a careful rider” who was constantly stressing safety, not allowing anyone to ride in his motorcycle club unless they had first received professional training. He called the accident on Higway 99 at Nordic Estates “purely a random moment of chaos.” Hodson said Roberts was travelling from Vancouver to a second property he owned in Pemberton at the time of the fatal collision.
Whistler RCMP was notified of the incident at around 2:30 p.m. involving a southbound logging truck, which went out of control around a bend, losing its load. A log struck the northbound motorcyclist, who was rushed to the Whistler Heath Care Centre and later pronounced dead.
A helicopter initially intended to shuttle Roberts was used to transport the driver of the logging truck to a Vancouver hospital, said Whistler RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair, adding that the driver's injuries were not as serious as originally thought.
The truck also struck a northbound vehicle, whose occupants were taken to the Whistler clinic as a precautionary measure. The vehicle's occupants did not suffer any serious injuries, according to police.
LeClair said there was no indication that speeding was a factor in the incident.
“The witness statements have been saying that it didn't appear the vehicle was traveling excessively fast,” he said, adding that there is also no evidence yet that the accident was the result of a mechanical mishap.
“I don't know what the cause of this particular collision is so it would be speculative to try and say what it is without actually knowing and getting the full report,” he said.
The Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service and B.C. Coroners Service continue to investigate the incident. LeClair did not have a timeline for the investigation's results.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden expressed her concern on her Facebook page Saturday that this was the second logging truck rollover in the resort in a month. She repeated that concern later in an interview with CBC.
“It's absolutely unacceptable that a logging truck should lose its load in the middle of our town, or anywhere for that matter, and the fact that this is the second time in a month that this has happened raises serious safety issues,” she wrote. “This is a police matter and I've asked our staff to liaise with the RCMP as to further action they propose to take.”
This isn't the first time that Whistler's Mayor and Council have discussed the safety of logging trucks in the area. In spring of 2007 there were two accidents within a few weeks of each other, including an incident where logs were spilled into the path of a bus. The passengers were okay but the driver was seriously injured.
At the time, the union that represented large groups of logging truck drivers and foresters — the United Steelworkers — lobbied the province to change several rules they say made the industry more dangerous. In 2005, some 43 forest industry workers were killed in B.C. One of those rules allowed companies to ship more raw logs out of communities, resulting in more trucks on the highway travelling longer distances.
LeClair noted that officers issued warnings and tickets to several logging trucks in violation in the past week alone. He said he was unaware of what the specific violations were, but believed it was due to logs being stacked over-height in some instances.