Whenever Jordan Wren catches a whiff of burning brakes driving home from work, his stomach churns as he is brought back to the scene of a tragic accident that happened one year ago.
It was May 3, 2013 that a transport truck, loaded with cement blocks, burned its brakes driving down the Rossland hill and careened off the road into a field at the intersection leading into Warfield.
Blue skies were the backdrop as Wren, girlfriend Ashley and her two young sons buckled up in their Warfield driveway and headed up the hill.
The family was planning a quick stop in Rossland before hitting the highway to Chilliwack for a friend’s wedding.
Within seconds of turning left on Tennyson Ave. into the highway’s left hand lane and directed towards the Alpine City, Wren was stunned when a passing vehicle warned him to get his truck out of the way.
“Then not five seconds later I see this semi squealing around the corner like it’s being pushed by the trailer,” he described.
“My heart sank.”
Reflexes kicked in and Wren veered right onto the shoulder of the highway and in the blink of an eye, the semi truck that was hauling a large trailer of cement blocks zipped by, missing his vehicle by about 10 feet.
Shaken and still in their vehicle, Wren and his family watched in horror as the semi rolled at the bottom of the hill, splaying heavy cement bricks and parts of the truck’s cab in all directions.
“That’s when Ashley said, ‘Oh my God the workers, the workers, we have to go help the workers.’”
A minute earlier the family passed a village crew working on the grass at the bottom of the hill.
“I pulled a U-turn and we were one of the first on the scene,” said Wren. “Ashley is a nurse and stayed with one girl we found who was hit by the bricks when she was running.”
The 50-year-old Ontario truck driver perished at the scene and a summer student working for the Village of Warfield was injured by flying debris and spent the night in Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.
West Kootenay Traffic Services concluded driver error and mechanical malfunction contributed to the cause of the fatal accident.
Since last summer, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure widened the turn at the corner of Highway 3B where truck crashed, eliminated the middle climbing lane on the hill and dedicated left hand turn slots marked to facilitate easier and safer turns.
Wren was born and raised in the Ottawa valley and since the age of 19, employed as a funeral director.
He moved to the West Kootenay two years ago to enjoy the West Kootenay lifestyle and is currently working at Alternatives Funeral & Cremation Services in Trail.
The near-miss was a sign that in a split second, tragic events can happen to anyone.
“I’ve always tried to take on the attitude that life’s too short to be unhappy,” he said. “But I think it was a sign and my close call makes me appreciate everything I have, even more.”