Condolences are pouring in for the lives lost in the tragic transport-truck collision early Sunday morning on the Trans-Canada Highway 35 kilometres east of Golden.
According to RCMP, three men died in the crash, which occurred at approximately 6:45 a.m. Aug. 28 and closed the highway for 37 hours.
Tanner Liefting, 25, and Brandon Richard Johnson, 30, both of Chilliwack, and Jagsir Singh Gill, 31, from Calgary, have been identified as the three men killed. A GoFundMe account has been set up for each of the three men.
The westbound truck was hauling cattle home from the Western Canadian Classic (WCC) in Brandon, Manitoba. There the young cattle had been shown by 4H club members from the North Okanagan-Shuswap and the Lower Mainland.
“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the families of the drivers who lost their lives in this accident. They are in all of our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. As you can imagine the entire WCC Team BC is struggling with this today, especially the young people who cared for the calves which perished in the crash. We are arranging to provide whatever support they might need,” the 4H team wrote in an Aug. 29 statement.
The 4H youth and the cattle they raise are selected to go to the WCC, an annual junior dairy show for the four western provinces.
Three of the 4H clubs involved were from the Salmon Arm district – the Deep Creek, Shuswap Dairy and Milky Way 4H clubs.
The BC Dairy Association confirmed that 24 young people had heifers on the truck, about half from the North Okanagan-Shuswap and half from the Lower Mainland. Just one heifer is reported to have survived.
The cattle liner had two drivers onboard with the intent of ensuring the driver was fresh, confirmed the dairy association.
According to a Golden-Field RCMP media release, “preliminary investigation shows that a westbound semi truck hauling cattle crossed over the centre line and hit an eastbound semi truck hauling lumber.”
Michelle Wolff, leader of the Queest Mountain 4H Club in the Salmon Arm district, expressed heartfelt condolences to the families of the drivers, to the children and their families who lost cattle and to the 4H clubs and leaders.
“To me the whole dairy and 4H community is going to be affected…I know a lot of the different dairies support the kids by giving them calves. They don’t come from one or two farms, they come from farms across the area.”
She noted that the upcoming Salmon Arm Fair (Sept. 9 to 11), and the IPE (Interior Provincial Exhibition, Aug. 31 to Sept. 4) in Armstrong will be affected.
The IPE issued a statement: “The Interior Provincial Exhibition would like to extend heartfelt sympathies to the 4H youth who lost their animals and to the families of the drivers who tragically lost their lives in a motor vehicle accident on Aug. 28,” said IPE general manager Heather King. “This is a loss that affects not only our fair, but our community. And the 4H program. The kids raised these animals from newborn calves to yearlings. Eighteen of the animals in the crash were to be part of the show at the IPE this year.”
The organizers of the Salmon Arm Fair are understandably also shaken.
Manager Jim McEwan said the fair association will be meeting to discuss the best way to show recognition of the tragedy, both the loss of life of the drivers as well as all the effects on the young people from losing their animals.
“These are things that you just don’t expect. And it is a very tight community, the dairy community. It’s just really, really difficult,” he said.
McEwan said he’s aware one of the dairy farmers was working on assembling kits to help replace all the equipment the young people lost such as halters, clippers, shears and more.
He said some of the 4H kids will be showing at the IPE and Salmon Arm Fair.
“While it’s a celebration of agriculture it’s still going to be a difficult time…
“We want some way to just let those kids know and 4H members know they have a big community supporting them.”
– With files from the Golden Star and the Vernon Morning Star.
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