Highway closures concern Invermere council

Invermere council directed district staff to send a letter to Columbia Valley RCMP to find more about the closure of Highway 93

Invermere council have directed district staff to send a letter to Columbia Valley RCMP to find out more about the circumstances surrounding the closure of Highway 93 near Radium Hot Springs following a fatal motorcycle accident several weeks ago.

The discussion at council was sparked by Invermere mayor Gerry Taft at the Tuesday, July 14th council meeting, when he pointed out that the highway is the major artery for visitor and tourist traffic coming into Invermere from Alberta. He said it was shut for 12 to 14 hours after the accident, which killed Jarret Wetyk, 29, of Calgary.

“Personally I think it’s excessive,” Taft said, adding that if a similar incident happened in the park and shut the highway for a similar timeframe on the Friday or Saturday of a long weekend, “it would have a huge impact on us.”

Taft said not only are the valley’s many tourism-dependent businesses dealt a blow in such circumstances, but that it can create heavy traffic on unofficial detours (such as on Westside Road, in the case of the motorcycle accident) which creates the potential for further accidents.

According to Taft, a coroner or police traffic analyst sometimes has to come from as far as Vernon for such incidents, and he said such a delay would not be found on a major road in bigger urban centres.

“I think we should be able to expect a higher level of service here,” said Taft, suggesting the district send a letter outlining its concerns and expectation of re-opening roads faster.

Councillor Greg Anderson cautioned this might be a hasty move.

“I agree with you that 14 hours is a long time, but we don’t know what they had on their plate that day,” said Anderson. “I’m not comfortable writing (such) a letter until we know the circumstances (surrounding the closure).

Taft then proposed sending a letter to find out more about the situation and to start a dialogue. Council members unanimously voted in favour of sending this letter.

Wetyk was the operator of a motorcycle that was southbound on Highway 93/95 at about 7:30 p.m. on July 4th.

About five kilometres south of Radium Hot Springs, the motorcycle collided with a semi-trailer also heading southbound. Mr. Wetyk was deceased at

the scene.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP continue to investigate this death.