RCMP continue investigation into Duffey Lake Road accident

(Editor’s Note: This is an update on the website story the News published yesterday regarding the May 31 fatal accident on Highway 99 South).

An RCMP accident investigation unit from the Lower Mainland is investigating the cause of the May 31 accident on the Duffey Lake Road that killed three people.

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Whistler RCMP Sgt. Rob Knapton told the Lillooet News this morning that police will  “conduct a complete investigation to determine exactly what happened.” He said the investigation would likely include blood alcohol level tests on the driver as well as scene investigation and an examination of the vehicle involved.

Sgt. Knapton said the investigation would assist police in determining “appropriate charges” to be laid in the case.

In the aftermath of the accident, police were quoted as saying they suspected the driver was impaired at the time of the accident and could be facing charges of impaired driving causing death. The maximum penalty for that offence under Section 255.3 of the Criminal Code of Canada is life imprisonment.

The News mistakenly reported yesterday that the Whistler RCMP had identified Lillooet area resident Sam “Farmer” Alec, 43 as the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident. A spokesperson for the RCMP “E” division later contacted the paper to say the police will only release the driver’s identity when charges are laid.

However, multiple sources, including Global TV News and CTV Vancouver, had already identified Alec as the driver. Local sources also confirmed to the Lillooet News that Alec, who is from Xaxli’p, was the driver.

Police say the driver of the vehicle was airlifted to a Vancouver hospital for treatment and was accompanied by an RCMP officer. Police are not commenting on the extent of his injuries.

RCMP say cyclists Kelly Blunden, 53, and Ross Chafe, 50, both of Whistler, were killed when a northbound car crossed the centre line and struck them. A third cyclist who was riding with the pair was not injured in the crash, but the passenger in the vehicle was killed. The passenger has been identified as Paul Maurice Pierre Jr., 52, from the Lil’wat Nation. Pierre was a well-known rancher in the Pemberton-Mt. Currie area.

RCMP were called to the scene downhill from the Joffre Lake salt sheds around 11:58 a.m. on Sunday. Police closed the highway in both directions for most of the day while they investigated at the scene.

Blunden and Chafe, both avid cyclists, had been on a gruelling ride up the Duffey Lake Road with its 13 per cent grade and had turned around to return home when they were hit.

Chafe was a businessman with a successful flag company and father of three. Blunden was described as a “family man” with adult children. He worked in IT for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Frank Savage, president of the Whistler Cycling Club, said cyclists are “quite vulnerable” on the road. ‘We all ride thousands of kilometres on the Sea to Sky Highway,” he told the News’ sister paper The Whistler Question. “We’re out there all the time, several days a week. We’re vulnerable and drunk drivers are the absolute worst.”

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