District of Invermere council will push for cell phone coverage in Kootenay National Park, to ease communication between first responders when accidents occur.
The call for cell service comes on the heels of a July 22 collision on Highway 93, when a tractor trailer exploded after pinning a van against the side of the road. The crash killed a California family of four, in the park on vacation. Since the incident, district mayor Gerry Taft says the lack of coverage in the park has been on his mind.
“There should be cell coverage through the park so that when accidents to occur — and it’s not if, it’s when — medical help can get there faster,” he told council at a special meeting August 3. “It seems crazy to me that right now we don’t have any cell coverage until the Radium pools.”
Taft says he thinks a few small cell towers could be added in the park without detracting from the landscape, and would also be of help to stranded motorists dealing with car troubles and in need of tow trucks.
According to chief administrative officer Chris Prosser, local emergency responders have few ways to communicate with each other once they enter the park. While the fire service used to have a satellite phone, he says it no longer provides coverage in the park. Radio communications must be relayed through Banff.
“We’ve got a gap in communication in that park,” Prosser says. “It’s like a black hole.”
Council is meeting with Parks Canada, as well as Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, in September, and will bring up the issue.