THE driver of a commercial gravel truck pulling a trailer travelling southbound on Highway 99 in Delta was fatally injured when he lost control and hit the centre divider during rush hour traffic on Wednesday morning.
Reports in Punjabi online newspapers were the first to identify the driver as Ravinder (Ravi) Singh Atwal, 32, of Abbotsford. He was the father of two young kids.
The truck and trailer went through the concrete centre barrier, landing on its side in the northbound fast lane and burst into flames. Two vehicles in the northbound lanes were damaged after being impacted by the truck and trailer. The drivers of both vehicles were transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Several witnesses attempted to free the trapped male driver and lone occupant of the truck, which by then was fully engulfed in flames. The driver suffered fatal injuries as a result of the incident. His identification will not be released pending next of kin notification, said RCMP Constable Mike Moore of the Lower Mainland District Traffic Services.
He said that police are continuing their investigation into possible contributing factors.
The fire was eventually extinguished by the Delta Fire Department. Highway 99 remained closed in both directions between just before the Massey Tunnel southbound and Ladner Trunk Road northbound. Multiple agencies, including the Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Service and the BC Coroners Service, attended the scene to investigate.
Investigators told CTV that a blown tire was likely the cause of the tragedy as witnesses came forward later to say that they saw a tire on the truck blow just before it lost control.
Deas Island RCMP spokesman Sgt. Lorne Lecker said that the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement had confirmed there was a mechanical failure and were looking at the truck’s maintenance history.
The truck owner Shimmy Walia of Mid-Valley Sand and Gravel told CTV that Atwal was “a very good driver” who never had an accident. He said the tires were purchased with the vehicle.
CTV reported that a Ministry of Transportation spokesperson told them that the company has a satisfactory rating and the 2014 Kenworth truck passed inspections in May and July last year.