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 need to do better:’ VicPD responds to more parties, gatherings

Chief pleads with public to ‘think of the greater good’

What Victoria residents are looking to buy while social distancing

New search terms pop up on the Used.ca the top 100 list

Flurries fall on Malahat Monday morning

Showers expected off and on for rest of the day

Stats Canada expects COVID-19 to impact inflation

Inflation trajectory already pointing downards because of COVID-19

Sooke businesses cope with closures in midst of COVID-19

Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce helping local business deal with pandemic

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

The government has rolled out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion

Most Read