Prince George resident Benjamin Arthur Buchi, 29, became the third forestry road fatality in B.C. this year, Monday.
Between 9:30 and 10 a.m., Buchi’s 2006 Dodge pickup truck skidded on loose gravel on Forestry Road 700, also known as Chunchinka Road, and rolled 9-10 metres down a very steep embankment into Chunchinka Creek, according to police. The truck landed upside down in a metre of water.
Heavy brush surrounding the Chunchinka Creek bridge meant Buchi, who was the only person in the vehicle, wasn’t found for several hours until a helicopter located the truck.
The Fraser Fort George Highway Rescue Unit was called out to the scene, north of Bear Lake, to extract Buchi from the truck using the Jaws of Life. The truck was not recovered until 10:30 p.m.
The Prince George RCMP traffic analyst was called in to investigate the scene and a mechanical inspection of the truck has been ordered. In addition, police are waiting on the results of an autopsy and toxicology report.
Forestry TruckSafe B.C. director Maryanne Arcand said despite Monday’s tragedy; progress has been made on making forestry roads safer.
In 2005 there were 15 fatalities on forestry roads in B.C., Arcand said. That number dropped to nine in 2006 and this year so far there have only been three.
The Ministry of Forests and Range is conducting a review of its enforcement policies on forestry roads, Arcand said. Currently there is some governmental confusion of who is responsible for enforcing road corners and bridges are engineered safely, and enforcing forestry road speed limits.
“We’re going to see some substantial developments in the Resource Road Act coming out in spring,” Arcand said. “Unfortunately, what no regulations can do is force people to operate in a safe manner. [And] a lot of them are old roads built for smaller vehicles then we have now.”
Forestry TruckSafe and WorkSafe B.C. having been working to educate logging truck drivers and other forestry professionals about good driving practices, she said.
“[But] because radios are not required, there are a lot of people who don’t have them, or don’t use them or use them incorrectly,” Arcand said. “Using a radio to let people know where you are in important.”
Recreational forestry road users also need to use good driving practices while on the roads.
“There are a lot of guys with guns who think their right to get a moose outweighs the loggers’ right to get to their work site. You [also] get tourists coming from Europe renting a motor home to see the back country, but nobody tells them they’re going to run into this commercial traffic,” she said.
“Remember it is a workplace. Drive with your headlights on. If there is active logging in the area, tuck in behind a logging truck they’ll use their radio to let people know you’re there. With the dry, it’s dusty and it’s easy to not see a pickup or a car.”