An Audi belonging to Jerry Petkau of Salmon Arm is a total write-off after an encounter with a black bear in eastern B.C. on Aug. 6. Petkau was not injured but the bear was killed. (Contributed)

Bear killed after head-on collision near B.C.-Alberta border

Driver faced with split-second choice to hit either semi or animal

The weekly commute from Salmon Arm to Hinton, Alta., is generally pretty routine for Jerry Petkau.

But not last Tuesday.

Petkau, who works for Teck Coal in Hinton, set out for his home in Salmon Arm first thing on Aug. 6.

The weather was a little cloudy and wet, but the roads were good.

As he got to Moose Lake on Highway 16 in Mt. Robson Provincial Park, he could see a semi about to meet him in the eastbound lane.

Just at that moment, a bear suddenly appeared at the top of a steep bank on the semi’s side of the highway.

“The semi was right there. The bear decided to cross the road, it didn’t hesitate. I thought the semi was going to hit it.”

The rest was a bit of a blur for Petkau because it happened so fast.

“I remember seeing the bear and thinking, ‘Oh no.’”

Petkau was travelling around 100 km/h.

He made a slight evasive maneuver, but steered back, realizing the only place his car was going to go was into the other lane.

“I hit the bear, I didn’t even have time to hit the brakes.”

Read more: Bear bites dog, owner punches bear in a northern B.C. encounter

Read more: Stay safe around predators in the North Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more: B.C. wildlife group seeks help after pregnant moose fatally hit by car

He says the hood flew up, covering the windshield, and the engine immediately stalled, compromising the brakes and steering.

Still, he managed to limp the car to the side of the road.

With so much steam — or what he thought might be smoke — coming from the engine, he wasn’t sure if it was going to blow up, so he jumped out.

“The semi driver came running over and he thanked me. He said, ‘I saw you made an evasive move over to my side of the lane and stopped. Any farther you would have hit me.’”

Petkau was in shock for a couple of hours, reeling from what had appeared to be imminent death.

“I was very thankful I was driving an Audi car…The crash features probably saved my life, just the way the car is built. It has a big, heavy steel bumper you never know is there.”

The bear, however, did not fare well.

“It blew the bear apart. The biggest part left was the head.

”The rest of the bear was scattered all over the highway — you could see a paw here, a leg there. Everybody was really surprised the bear was blown into so many pieces.”

A park ranger, who was on scene within 10 minutes, said the animal was about 400 or 500 pounds.

“He said, ‘Boy, you’re lucky; it was a good-sized bear.’”

Read more: Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Read more: Twin bear cubs rescued after mom killed in hit and run on Highway 1

Petkau wondered at the time whether it was being chased by something.

“It was on the run when it came up onto the road. It just grabbed another gear and kept going. It saw the semi; the semi was right there.”

He discounts the chase theory, however. Based on the bear’s size, he doesn’t know what could have intimidated it.

Petkau’s Audi was written off as a total loss. He is grateful he survived, and for the kindness of all those who witnessed the crash and helped him.

He says he has seen deer, moose and bear on the route before, but never in such a tight situation.

“I feel fairly fortunate I haven’t had wildlife encounters to this point. This one sure made up for it.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

The interior of an Audi belonging to Jerry Petkau of Salmon Arm after an encounter with a black bear in eastern B.C. on Aug. 6. The vehicle was a write-off and the bear was killed but Petkau was not injured. (Photo contributed)

Just Posted

Teck’s water treatment facility on track for 2020 completion

Teck is on schedule for late 2020 for the completion of their… Continue reading

Barry Marchi’s spirits high as treatment in Seattle continues

Barry Marchi’s spirits are high as he continues treatment in the United… Continue reading

PHOTOS: 2019 Wapiti Music Festival

With eyes to the stage and hands to the sky the crowd… Continue reading

New art gallery opens downtown Fernie

Two local artists, Tara Higgins and Kerri Holmes have joined forces to open H2 Studio Gallery

Search continues for new leads in Mt. Bisaro cave system

Cavers returning October, November to push new leads, extend Canada’s deepest cave near Fernie

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

River rescue near Fernie prompts log jam warning

The City of Fernie announced at the beginning of August a dangerous… Continue reading

Black Pistol Fire ignites Wapiti festival crowd

Off stage, Kevin McKeown is a calm, collected individual. On stage, he… Continue reading

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Most Read