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

Four days of mediation fail to break four-month strike in the woods

Steelworkers union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

Vancouver Island firefighters showcased on Discovery Channel

Second season of Hellfire Heroes premieres Oct. 22

Birders flocking to Greater Victoria after rare warbler sighting

Tiny bird draws big audience to Panama Flats

Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

Wei Li was arrested at airport with burns to face and hands

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

Raiders to face Rebels in football playoffs

Island football squads on a collision course for the playoffs

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Man seriously injured after fall from Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge

Police say incident stands as public safety reminder

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Most Read