BY GRAEME BRUCE
No charges were laid against a driver who hit the Wallace District Fire Department chief while he was attending to a highway accident involving a family of eight.
During whiteout conditions on the Trans-Canada Highway Friday afternoon, fire Chief Brad Yochim, along with other firefighters, were at a crash scene just west of Elkhorn when he was struck by a vehicle travelling in the same direction.
While Yochim was placing LED lights around the crash scene, he said he was hit, thrown to the ditch some 20 feet away and landed on his knees before the driver stopped.
Road conditions were terrible and traffic was heavy, Yochim said. RCMP spokesperson Tara Seel said due to the road conditions, no charges were laid against the driver who hit Yochim.
Three ambulances had already been dispatched to the scene to transport the eight people to hospital — including a fiveyear- old boy with a broken leg — before Yochim was struck.
Neither ambulances nor police had yet reached the scene when the fire chief was hit.
When emergency vehicles arrived, Yochim, along with the family of eight, were taken to Virden hospital. He was released hours later.
The young child sustained the worst of the injuries involving the family.
The driver who hit Yochim told him he was going about 50 km/h — but Yochim suspects he was going faster.
The shaken fire chief, who has been with the department for 34 years, said the incident raises perennial concerns about the danger facing emergency personnel responding to highway accident scenes. Their fears are only heightened during the winter.
“We train for this constantly because half of our call volume is on the highway,” he said. “We do 50 or 60 calls on the highway every year, so we train big time.
“But as much as we train and think it’s not going to happen to us — boom, it happens.”
In hindsight, Yochim said he should have closed the highway to deal with the bad crash.
‘We should have stopped traffic’
“I think the laws are all there,” he said. “(It’s) a lesson learned for us that we should have stopped traffic instead of letting it roll by us.”
Last year, the provincial government implemented new laws for passing emergency vehicles on the highway after lobbying efforts by CAA.
Drivers on either side of an undivided highway who speedpast a stopped tow truck, roadside-assistance vehicles and vehicles operated by government enforcement officers with their beacons activated, will be subject to a $300 fine. The new fine was brought in by the Selinger government under the Highway Traffic Act to provide more safety for first responders.
Yochim has not yet returned to work.
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