Truck driver questioned after fatal fiery crash

A Langley truck driver was questioned by police after a California family of four, in B.C. on vacation, was killed in an explosive three-vehicle crash on Highway 93.

The crash took place just after 3 p.m. on Friday (July 22), on an s-curve bend not far from Olive Lake in Kootenay National Park.

According to RCMP, a flat-deck tractor trailer was headed south when it crossed the centre line and jack-knifed into the path of a northbound 1972 Dodge van.

Eyewitnesses say the driver of the van tried to avoid the truck by driving onto the shoulder of the highway, but was unable to avoid the collision. Road conditions were wet at the time.

The van, as well as a compact 4x4 it was towing, were pinned to the barriers on the side of the road. Meanwhile, the force of the collision caused the truck’s fuel tanks to ignite and explode, engulfing all three vehicles in flames.

The driver of the truck — identified as a 40-year-old truck driver from the Langley area — was able to escape the fire without apparent physical injuries, but RCMP say the intensity of the blaze made it impossible for passersby to assist those in the van.

RCMP, park staff and local fire and ambulance crews responded to the scene, and the highway remained closed until late that night as responders battled the flames and began their investigation.

The vehicles involved in the crash were so badly damaged that investigators were forced to move the van to another location, where it could be examined by the forensic identification team, to determine who had occupied it at the time of the accident.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP have since determined the van carried four passengers, most likely a family of four vacationing from Palo Alto, California,who crossed into Canada a day earlier.

Police are not confirming the names and ages of the deceased. CTV has identified the occupants of the van as the Howard family, made up of Robert, 49,  Ana-Maria, 50, and daughters Samantha, 11, and Veronica, 9.

The driver of the truck was detained by investigators, but was released without charges.

RCMP were asking anyone who observed the vehicles prior to the crash, or who took video or photographs of the collision, to contact the East Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit at 245-420-4244.

- with files from Madison Samuel-Barclay, Black Press

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