Shambhala – Excessive speed keeps police busy

Officers were shocked at the number of speeding cars before and after this year's Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo.

Officers were shocked at the number of speeding cars before and after this year’s Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo.

Sergeant John Ferguson with the RCMP’s West Kootenay Traffic Services in Nelson, says that after years with the festival in the area, there are certain things that they are used to, but this year, they were a bit surprised.

“We are used to getting all the drugs and all that stuff,” he said. “What we found really surprising and really scary was the amount of (vehicles travelling at) high speeds.”

Over the weekend, and into early this week, Ferguson says the officers with the West Kootenay Traffic Services couldn’t keep up with the number of speeding drivers.

“On Friday night, we had five cars out and some of them had two or three cars pulled over at the same time,” he said, adding that every car that was pulled over was found to be heading to or from Shambhala. “A guy cruising along at 120 km/hr, they weren’t even touching because right behind him was a guy coming at 140 km/hr. It scared us.”

Reducing the number of speeding vehicles on the roads around Shambhala is going to be a priority for Ferguson and the traffic services for next year’s festival.

“It was a bit different than last year and we are going to have to concentrate on this more,” he said. “A lot of them are racing from different parts of the country to start their party and then on Monday, they are racing to get back to work.”

Between Friday and Tuesday, officers issued 10 excessive speed citations that went along with seven-day vehicle seizures. The highest speed officers recorded was a vehicle travelling at 180 km/hr on the way to Shambhala.

Traffic services also pulled over two motorcycles after the festival – one was clocked at 170 km/hr and the other was 150 km/hr.

Ferguson says there is added danger on the road when crowds are leaving Shambhala after the festival is over.

“We got a couple of impaired drivers and we had quite a few people that had their licenses suspended because they had been doing drugs and shouldn’t have been driving,” he said.

Illegal drugs are part of the festival, says Ferguson, and there were a few drug seizures, with charges that may follow.

“We have done probably well over 100 drug seizures and from those, we have at least 10 proposed charges for either proceeds of crime, meaning they had a lot of money on them, or for possession of marijuana, LSD, ketamine (and more),” he said, adding that those in charge at Shambhala do their best. “Shambhala organizers do a very, very good job and the best that they are able but when you get 10,000 people where a large majority do partake is some type of illegal drugs or alcohol, we are only touching maybe .5 per cent of it. There is so much drugs going on in there, it just astounds you.”