Nanoose Bay fire chief Doug Penny said in his 50 years with the department, he’s never seen anything like it.
On Monday, Oct. 3, shortly after 2 p.m., a semi-tractor trailer rig was heading northbound along the 2400 block of the Island Highway north of Nanaimo when the rig ran off the road and smashed through a house, almost exiting the opposite side of the building before the tractor came to rest, trapping the driver in the rig under piles of debris.
Oceanside RCMP, B.C. Ambulance Service and Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department and Lantzville Fire Rescue rushed to the scene.
It took firefighters about three hours to free the driver because of the amount of debris that had to be cleared from around the cab of truck. The spaces were tight, severely limiting the number of people who could work around the vehicle.
“I’ve never seen anything like this and I don’t want to see it again, either,” Penny said. “It’s one of those things you wouldn’t even dream of putting a practice scenario together.”
The truck was heavily loaded with large paper pulp mats and the impact of the crash was heard by residents on the other side of Nanoose Bay. The concussion when the truck hit the house blew out the home’s back windows and diesel fuel was spilled throughout the structure, posing a fire hazard, Penny said.
Firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut open the truck cab to extricate the driver.
“I guess there was a whole bunch of those mats on top of [the truck cab] first, that they had to clear out, just to see the roof of the cab, and then they basically opened it up like a can of soup and they got him out through the hole in the roof,” the fire chief said.
Penny said six people lived in the house and none were in the home when the truck tore through it. A dog escaped the wreck and was later found, but two cats had not been accounted for at about 5 p.m.
Penny was delayed getting to the scene. He had just arrived at a destination in Nanaimo when the alarm came through on his phone and pager and he was unable to get through a traffic jam that had backed up from the crash scene to south of the Ware Road and Island Highway intersection.
The driver was on a stretcher and about to be loaded into an ambulance at about 5 p.m. and was conscious and talking with first responders.
“From what I understand, the driver was airlifted to Vancouver [General Hospital]. I believe that he’s doing OK, not life-threating [injuries]. Amazing,” Penny said. “Our crews worked, I guess, for three hours to get him out … They had him on a stretcher in the driveway when I walked on the scene and then, ambulance, I just heard them say, ‘OK, we’ve got him from here and off they went’ … He was conscious and talking to our crews throughout most of the ordeal.”
Parksville Fire Rescue set up an air ambulance landing zone at the commercial vehicles weigh scales and inspection station south of Parksville.
As of Tuesday morning, Oct. 4, the truck was still lodged in the house and there had been no attempt to remove it. Penny said Nanoose volunteer firefighters were on scene to maintain security on the site.
“We’re just still waiting for insurance adjusters to come out and have a look at it first before we move anything … We’re just there maintaining security and fire watch,” he said.
RCMP, Nanoose and Lantzville fire depts., BC Ambulance at 2400 blk Island Hwy, Nanoose for semi tractor trailer thru house. 2 people, dog, cat OK. Truck driver still in vehicle. Northbound hwy traffic one lane.#Nanoose #traffic #crash @NanaimoBulletin pic.twitter.com/E2rdrNpLdE
— Chris Bush (@ChrisBushphotog) October 3, 2022