Peace Arch News

Railings not to blame in South Surrey fatal bridge plunge

RCMP divers recover vehicle. - File photo
RCMP divers recover vehicle.
— image credit: File photo

Nearly a year after a car plunged through a railing of the Serpentine River bridge in South Surrey – submerging the driver for 90 minutes – a report on the fatal crash has been released.

At a Monday briefing, Ministry of Transportation bridge and traffic engineers said an examination of the section of guard rail that failed to prevent the driver from crashing into the Serpentine River on Feb. 28, 2011 showed there was no structural problem with the bridge.

Regardless, the 1961-era bridge will be beefed up with more concrete guard rails in place of the cast aluminum railings originally installed.

The report only deals with the structural integrity of the bridge, however it refers to the police investigation as determining that the victim’s Honda Civic hit the railing on one side of the bridge with a glancing blow, then spun out of control and hit the same side again, more directly.

(Note: a previous version of this story incorrectly reported the car hitting one side, then the other).

According to the report, the impact occurred in a location that led to the failure of the railing.

The ministry also announced that other older bridges with heavy traffic are being looked at to see if they need their railings upgraded.

However, they stressed that the circumstances that led to the failure of the railing were “unique” and do not mean that the railing on the older bridge was in any way unsafe.

A Vancouver woman in her 20s was southbound in the 4600-block of Highway 99, just before 10 a.m., when she plunged through the bridge barrier into the murky water below.

Her car settled upside-down on the river bottom and was not visible from the surface, Crescent Beach Coast Guard Auxiliary member Sig Kristensen had told Peace Arch News.

The crew was called in to assist in a “barrier search” for the car and driver, monitoring the river downstream for signs the woman or vehicle had drifted from the original crash site.

The driver was underwater 90 minutes before a police dive team was able to locate the vehicle and extricate her, unconscious.

She was resuscitated and airlifted to hospital, but she died 12 days later.

At the family’s request, police did not release the victim’s name.

Police said investigators were confident alcohol, speed and aggressive driving were not factors.

A few weeks after the crash, Cpl. Aaron Sproule of the RCMP’s Lower Mainland Traffic Services announced that charges were being recommended against a second driver who is believed to have contributed to the crash.

There was no sign that the second vehicle came into contact with the Honda Civic prior to the car breaching the barrier, police said.

The second driver’s name has also not been released, pending formal charges.

with files from Tracy Holmes

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