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That traffic was Wade Coulam, an experienced driver for Fort St. John-based Tidy Trucking since May 2010, driving a semi-truck and tanker.
His employer is applauding the way he handled the situation. Tidy Trucking HSE Manager Jason Griffiths says, “So much of this comes down to the driver’s ability and reaction.”
Coulam says he saw the truck ahead and dimmed his lights, when he then noticed the lights of the 4×4 go completely out. He put his foot over his brake, and by the time he could see the truck again, it was in front of him in his lane. In that split-second he swerved into the other lane, avoiding colliding head-on with the truck, and drove around the truck.
The 4×4 ended up hitting the back right wheel of the tanker, blowing the axle and tearing the steel off the frame before knocking it over and sending the nearly empty container into the opposite ditch. Coulam then zigzagged again, bringing the trailer back into the right-hand side ditch, and then straight to bring it back onto the road. The 4×4 came to a stop in the ditch a distance away, facing the opposite direction completely destroyed.
Fearing he had hit the truck and its passengers were deceased, Coulam remained in the *pit* and called dispatch and emergency services. RCMP on the scene told the owner of Tidy Trucking that it was due to Coulam’s reaction that the teens escaped the crash alive.
The company will be rewarding him with an award for driver’s excellence, and wants to share how he was able to avoid a much worse outcome. Griffiths believes that, “Certainly his reactions have allowed those people to walk away from their vehicles, without a doubt.”
According to Griffiths, Coulam’s entire reaction would have had to have happened in a quarter of a second. He says many factors enabled Coulam to react so well, including having a steady hand, not panicking, being aware of his surroundings and managing his fatigue. He was less than an hour and a half into his shift. In addition, there was some liquid in the front unit, helping to weigh it down.
Coulam did not sustain any injuries, and carried on his shift after being delivered a new tanker. All four teens were sent to hospital, and have all reportedly been released. Everyone involved in the collision was wearing a seatbelt, which helped even more serious injuries.
RCMP do not believe alcohol was a factor in this collision.
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