Investigators trying to pinpoint the cause of a fatal garbage truck accident on Tuesday are focusing on the truck’s hydraulic system. The 36-year-old driver of the Waste Management truck died when the truck knocked down a pedestrian overpass on the Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, B.C.
The 36-year-old driver had stopped on the Lougheed Highway about 200 metres before the overpass at Dewdney Trunk Road in Coquitlam. When the truck started to move with traffic, either the front forks or the box at the rear of the vehicle began to rise, striking the overpass which fell, crushing the driver.
Investigators want to know what caused the accident and whether it was a mechanical failure, as appears likely. Reports differ as to whether the truck’s lifting forks to begin to rise while it was moving, or the rear box.
Typically, the forks — used to lift commercial garbage containers — are stowed flush against the top of the vehicle while it travels. But, in this case, the forks were partially deployed up above the cab and struck the concrete walkway over Lougheed Highway at approximately 11 a.m., toppling the structure off one of two supports. The walkway fell on top of the cab of the vehicle, killing the driver, a 36-year-old Coquitlam man, the father of three young children.
Though witnesses said they saw the garbage truck’s forks hit the overhead walkway, RCMP Cpl. Jane Baptista says investigators now suspect that’s not what happened.
"There could be a number of possibilities. My understanding is that it is not the forks, but the box of the truck that came up and collided with the overpass, the entire rear container," he said.
WorkSafe B.C. spokesperson Scott McCloy says there are no specific regulations governing the hydraulic systems on garbage trucks, but says the investigation could change that.
An RCMP motorcycle officer who was hit by another truck while on his way to the accident scene remains in stable condition in hospital with a spinal fracture.
By Wednesday morning, a makeshift memorial had sprung up to honour the driver killed. Bouquets of pink carnations, orange gerber daisies, purple snap dragons and a blue stuffed rabbit were left behind with cards offering words of sympathy and support to the driver’s family.
It was a "rough day" for Waste Management of Canada Corp. employees, said public-affairs director Cam Hantiuk.
"We had grief counselors on site at the absolute first opportunity [Tuesday] afternoon so that when some of our folks were coming in from shifts or going out on shifts they had the ability to talk to somebody if they needed to," he said. "We’re doing everything we can to support them in terms of coping with the tragedy."
Hantiuk said the company will observe a moment of silence in the driver’s honour.