A crowdfunding campaign has been launched in the wake of a traffic accident that killed two Squamish men and injured five other locals near Alice Lake on Jan. 2.
“The Fund for Squamish Accident Victims” originally aimed to raise $25,000 for the men’s families, but was boosted to $50,000 after that goal was quickly surpassed. At press time on Monday (Jan. 8), $26,000 had been raised in just one day.
“The accident has left the family members and close-knit community shaken, and we are asking for you to wholeheartedly support the families,” said Amandeep Kaur Mann on the campaign website.
The dead and injured are members of Squamish’s Indo-Canadian community, according to the site.
One of the injured victims was a new father — his child born just weeks before the tragic accident. “His young family needs support as he slowly recovers,” Kaur Mann wrote.
Another victim was the sole caregiver for his older relative. “Most of the victims were young, hard-working members of the community that need all the support our amazing town can offer.”
The accident occurred Tuesday, Jan. 2 at about 7:30 p.m. when a northbound pickup truck, driven by a lone occupant, crossed the centre line and collided with a southbound minivan carrying the seven local men, according to a Squamish RCMP news release on Wednesday.
The crash happened just before 7:30 p.m. at Cheekye River Bridge, near the Alice Lake turn off.
Police have located and notified next of kin for the deceased individuals, however their names will not be released, according to the RCMP. One other person who was in the minivan is in critical condition, while two passengers sustained minor injuries, said Cst. Mike Halskov of Squamish’s E-Div Traffic Services.
The Sea to Sky highway was closed in both directions for more than eight hours while crews worked to assess and clear the accident.
Whistler’s Laura Tamblyn Watts was on the highway headed home northbound at about 7:30 p.m., she said, when suddenly traffic ground to a halt. She was about 30 seconds and five vehicles behind the crash, she estimates.
She has been driving the Sea to Sky for about 20 years and had never seen the number of first responders who rushed to the scene, she said. She counted four ambulances arrive as well as Squamish Fire Rescue and RCMP.
She added that she was impressed by how many first responders arrived on the scene so quickly.
During the more than an hour’s wait in stopped traffic, Tamblyn Watts said it was touching to see how drivers helped each other out with cups of coffee and the like.
She described it as a “very Canadian experience.”
After about an hour or so waiting for the road to reopen, an RCMP constable told drivers in line to turn around as the highway would remain closed for six to eight hours more.
Tamblyn Watts said she secured one of the last rooms at the Sandman Hotel in Squamish for the night. While she was being checked in, several people called the hotel asking for rooms, and at least one family was sitting in the lobby without a room for the night, she said.
“Squamish will be very busy tonight,” she said, adding she felt very fortunate to be able to find a place to stay and felt terrible for those who had more urgent reasons to travel between Squamish and Whistler.
Mostly though, she worries for the people involved in the tragic accident, she said.
Because she was so close to it, the scene left her shaken, Tamblyn Watts said.
“It puts those New Year’s resolutions in perspective,” she said, adding the desire to lose 10 lbs doesn’t seem so important after being so close to a traumatic event.
No cause of the crash has been identified.