The man who drove his car into a downtown business on Sunday said he lost consciousness moments before the collision, according to a local resident who dragged the man from the scene.
The crash caused a gas leak that closed the Island Highway for hours. Campbell River resident Brian Miller was driving to work when he arrived on the scene shortly before 8 a.m.
“I probably rolled up like 15, 20 seconds after he actually hit the wall,” Miller said.
Miller pulled over after noticing a young woman running across the highway to help the driver. Miller called 911 and attended to the emergency.
Natural gas was rushing from a broken gas line when Miller approached the silver Toyota car, which had crossed the centre line from the northbound lane and smashed into the corner of Campbell River Collateral, a pawnbroker.
“The gas was blowing everywhere, you could hear it,” Miller said.
The young woman was tapping on the window of the car. The car didn’t appear badly damaged but the air was thick with the smell of gas, and Miller yelled at the young woman to back away.
Miller shouted at the man, asking if he was okay and whether he could step out of the car. He told the man not to start his engine to avoid an explosion. The man opened the door and “half fell out of the car,” Miller said.
Miller dragged the man to a spot about 20 feet away, where he checked the man for injuries and covered him with a blanket. The driver, possibly in his 50s, didn’t appear badly injured but seemed “super out of it.”
As the smell of gas became stronger, Miller moved the driver further away from the scene of the crash with the help of another passerby. An ambulance soon arrived and took the man away.
The driver told Miller and the young woman who first attended the scene that he’d passed out at the wheel.
“He just said he just lost consciousness and woke up kinda into the wall,” Miller said, adding that the driver also mentioned recent health problems.
Campbell River Fire Rescue confirmed that a driver was taken to hospital after his vehicle crashed into Island Collateral at 870 Island Hwy. in an incident that caused a gas leak.
“When it impacted the building, it came in contact with the gas meter and sheared it off,” said Cpt. John Baker, the commanding officer at the scene of the incident.
Firefighters responded to the crash shortly before 8 a.m., and arrived on-scene with BC Ambulance workers and RCMP. Workers from FortisBC, an energy company, arrived later.
“We’ve had gas escaping here since shortly before eight o’clock,” Baker said around noon, as FortisBC workers emptied gas from a line ahead of repairs on the broken meter.
Firefighters planned to vent out several buildings after checking for residual gas in consultation with gas workers, Baker said.
He added that BC Hydro had shut down power at three businesses – Mom’s Book Bin, Tyee Marine and Campbell River Collateral – on the west side of the road.
Traffic flaggers were turning vehicles away between Robert V. Ostler Park and 6th Avenue and the smell of natural gas still hung in the air. Pedestrian access to the area was also restricted.
The highway was open to single-lane alternating traffic by mid-afternoon on Sunday, and normal circulation has now resumed. The Campbell River RCMP didn’t immediately respond to a request for information on Monday.