Two people suffered minor injuries after a rock slide shook down onto Highway 97 on Sunday afternoon just two kilometres north of Summerland.
Matt Strength was driving northbound near La Punta Norte Bed and Breakfast when he saw rocks and dirt come down the mountain and a dust cloud form on the highway.
“There was this huge dust cloud from where the rocks came down and then we saw two vehicles that just managed to get out of the way of it. They came right out of this big dust cloud like something out of a movie,” he said.
As the dust started settling he jumped out of his vehicle and ran to where one car appeared to be hit. He was followed by the driver of the vehicle in front of him.
“You could hear a car horn blaring in the distance and we realized someone got hit by those rocks. One guy ran over to the driver and helped him get out. The driver was banged up a bit with scratches to his forehead, some kind of chest trauma and looked like a twisted or broken ankle,” said Strength.
The female passenger in the vehicle hit by the slide was unconscious and as others began digging debris from the back of the vehicle, Strength and one other person started pulling rocks from the passenger side door.
“Once we got to her a physician that was in the traffic came over and handled everything. At one point the woman was unconscious but she came to and she definitely was not feeling too good. The physician deemed her neck was alright so we moved her out. She was pretty uncomfortable and it wasn’t long after that the paramedics got there,” said Strength.
The impact of the slide pushed the vehicle three lanes over into a traffic barrier which also got pushed from the force of the car and slide, said Strength.
“It definitely wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I grew up in the Okanagan and you always hear about landslides and rockslides on the highways but this was the first time I had seen it first hand. It was pretty shocking and I didn’t even really think about it when I ran out to help until afterwards and the adrenaline was going,” Strength said.
RCMP said the slide occurred around 11:26 a.m. and the two Alberta residents in the vehicle were transported to the Penticton Hospital and released Sunday evening. Sgt. Stephane Lacroix said it is believed most of their injuries were caused by the airbags being deployed. He said the pair are lucky, considering the amount of debris that fell.
“To see that coming down towards you must be terrifying. It is good thing no one was completely buried or pushed into the lake. There is not much they could have done to get out of the way. There was no warning. They were lucky,” said Lacroix.
Vehicles were at a standstill temporarily on Highway 97 on Sunday before the road was opened to single lane alternating traffic. A media spokesperson from DriveBC said they will be providing an update on the progress of cleanup Monday afternoon.