Drivers experienced a terrifying scene on Hwy. 4 Thursday afternoon as a tree crashed onto the road in the middle of congested traffic. (Photo - Lance Desilets)

UPDATE: Construction on Hwy. 4 halted after tree crashes into traffic

Trees are being cleared along the highway between Port Alberni and the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.

Construction work along Hwy. 4 has been suspended after it caused a tree to crash onto the highway where it collided with vehicles on Thursday afternoon.

Trees are being cleared along the highway near Kennedy Hill as part of a roughly $38 million improvement project, being split between the provincial and federal governments, to increase the safety of a curvy 1.6-kilometre stretch of road.

“The incident today on Highway 4 was extremely unfortunate and we are relieved no one was injured. The ministry would like to thank travellers for their patience while crews confirmed everyone’s safety and then worked to remove the tree and reopen the highway,” a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure told the Westerly News.

“Construction activities are suspended while the ministry investigates the incident with the construction contractor. Once we have more answers, an action plan will be developed to ensure no further incidents.”

West Coast resident Lance Desilets was heading over the highway when the incident occurred and said he was roughly 15 metres from where the tree came down.

“I actually heard the trees coming down before I saw them,” he said. “I had my window down and i could hear crashing over-top of me and then, all of a sudden, there was tree rolling down the hill and landed half on a lady’s car in front of me and a camper in front of her.”

He added he wasn’t sure if it was one tree that came down and broke into pieces as it crashed onto the road, or multiple trees.

“The two cars in front of me got hit…It hit two different vehicles and the two different vehicles were spaced apart quite a ways. It happened so fast it was really hard to tell exactly if it was just one tree that broke off or if it was two separate trees,” he said. “It was terrifying.”

He added the road was “jam-packed” at the time as drivers had been stopped at the start of the construction zone, roughly 14 kilometres from the Tofino-Ucluelet junction, and had recently been waved through.

“They turned the sign to slow and we slowly started driving up the road…There was a lineup of 50 cars probably and I was one car away. Literally 50 feet from [the tree],” he said. “There’s no way that they should have been logging up there while traffic was still going by.”

He said no injuries occurred, but the two vehicles were damaged and one of the drivers was clearly “shaken up.”

Desilets said he travels over the highway about once every two weeks and the experience has him worried about the safety of that commute. He noted this is the second accident caused by the construction work within the span of a week as, last Thursday, rock blasting work sent a boulder crashing into a B.C. Hydro pole causing an eight hour power outage on the West Coast.

“That makes you think,” he said. “We’ve got to drive back and forth there a bunch of times, they better have their stuff together. They better get it together.”

The tree caused the highway to closed temporarily, but it was open again around 1 p.m.

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