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Highway commuter says fatal accident scene near Pinchgut Lake prone to snow squalls

Debris from Tuesday evening’s fatal collision could still be found Wednesday morning at the scene on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, about one kilometre west of Pinchgut Lake.
Debris from Tuesday evening’s fatal collision could still be found Wednesday morning at the scene on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, about one kilometre west of Pinchgut Lake. - Gary Kean

Danielle Marche drives the Trans-Canada Highway between Corner Brook and Stephenville every day.

The Western Regional School of Nursing student was on her way back home to Stephenville at 8 p.m. Tuesday when she encountered a long line of traffic held up at the scene of a fatal collision.

She and her boyfriend waited for about two hours before a police officer told them it would be another hour or two before they would get through. They returned to Corner Brook to get some gas and coffee before making another attempt to get home, which they finally did shortly before 1 a.m.

“You get worried, especially for families with it being so near Christmas, because you never know who is on the highway.

“I knew it was serious, with no traffic moving in either direction.”

— Danielle Marche

The RCMP is still investigating the cause of the fatal collision on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Corner Brook Tuesday evening. The city detachment received a report of the crash at 6:50 p.m.

A sport utility vehicle travelling east had collided with a transport truck heading west, about one kilometre west of Pinchgut Lake.

Mary Byrne, 72, of Stephenville, was a passenger in the SUV and died at the scene. Her husband, Dennis Byrne, was driving the SUV. He was extricated from the vehicle and taken to Western Memorial Regional Hospital, then airlifted to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s.

Police said he has critical injuries.

The driver of the transport truck was not hurt.

An RCMP collision analyst attended the scene and the investigation is continuing.

While no cause has been determined, Marche said that particular stretch of highway is often a concern for her. She said it seems to be prone to snow squalls and slippery conditions.

“It’s always like that in that area, so I don’t know if that’s what happened here,” she said, raising the possibility of visibility being hampered temporarily in the area around the time of the accident.

“In the time we were waiting there, a good inch of snow fell.”

The police would offer few more details as of deadline Wednesday. The RCMP did report there was light snow falling at the time of the accident and said road conditions were considered to be fair to good.

The passenger sides of both the SUV and the transport truck seemed to have taken the brunt of the collision.

After passing the wreckage being removed from the highway, Marche was not surprised the accident had been fatal. She said it certainly gives a regular highway traveller like her pause for thought.

“If we had been 10 or 15 more minutes later (on the way into Corner Brook earlier in the evening), we might have seen it happen or had been in it,” she said. “It really makes you think. We have children at home and it’s sad to think about, especially in December.”

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