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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Strong winds expected in Greater Victoria Friday evening

Winds are expected to ease Saturday morning

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read