Update November 19, 2021: All vehicles abandoned on Highway 7 have been towed to the Agassiz Recreation Centre (6660 Pioneer Avenue, Agassiz). A representative from Reliable Towing will be on site to fetch vehicles starting at 10 am on November 19. Drivers should bring government ID and proof of ownership, and call 604-374-0982 before arriving. More details in our latest story.
People who were airlifted out from Highway 7 after getting trapped between two mudslides on Sunday evening are asking how to collect their vehicles once the road is passable again.
Melanie Forsythe, who became trapped between the Ruby Creek and Johnson Slough Rest Area slides near Agassiz, had to leave her brand new truck on the highway with her keys on the dashboard when she boarded a helicopter to be evacuated.
“I’m happy we’re all safe. That’s the biggest thing,” she told Daily Hive. “[But] it doesn’t feel good [to leave it] … We were worried about [it getting] swept away while we’re gone.”
She gave her name, phone number, and vehicle description to staff at the evacuation centre in Agassiz but so far hasn’t heard how or when she’s supposed to retrieve it.
She’s not alone — at least 100 vehicles were trapped between the slides, and many of them are still there after their drivers were airlifted to safety.
Dave Rahberger with Reliable Towing based in Mission confirmed to Daily Hive that his employees had towed the stuck vehicles to the side of the road so others could pass.
He added that soon the vehicles will be relocated to Agassiz. Beyond that, he hasn’t received details from the Ministry of Transport.
The BC government did not respond to Daily Hive’s questions about what drivers are supposed to do, and instead referred questions to a scheduled briefing Thursday afternoon with public safety officials.
Janelle Staite, regional deputy director for the South Coast with the BC Transport Ministry, only said they are working to coordinate removal of the vehicles.
A spokesperson for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), which handles car insurance claims, told Daily Hive it is seeing an uptick in requests related to extreme weather and flooding. But it didn’t have word on what drivers who abandoned their vehicles should do.
Some people who were airlifted to Agassiz rode back to Metro Vancouver with volunteer drivers, while others chartered float planes to pick them up at nearby Harrison Lake.
Forsythe is staying behind at a hotel near Harrison Hot Springs while she waits to retrieve her vehicle and drive home to Prince George. It’s normally an eight-hour drive to the northern BC city, but she suspects she’ll have to re-route through Princeton with all the highway closures.
Forsythe thinks the expense of flying home and back again would be too much, and her travel partner is unvaccinated meaning, they wouldn’t be able to board a commercial flight anyway.
“We’re in it together,” she said, not wanting to leave her companion behind.
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She bought the truck just last month, and was grateful to find the model she wanted given the troubles with vehicle supply chains due to COVID-19. The vehicle has her Christmas shopping in the back, and she hopes to eventually be reunited with it.
“We’re basically at the mercy of how long it takes,” she said. “In Harrison there’s only two markets, and they’re already out of pretty much everything.”
She said the entire experience has been life-altering, from spending the night sleeping on the highway to wading through a mudslide with her small dog to board the chopper. She made friends with a woman sitting next to her who grabbed her arm for comfort during the turbulent ride.
“One thing that we have taken away from this experience is the kindness that’s come out of everybody. We’re all looking out for each other,” she said.
She’ll also be preparing for travel differently in the future by packing provisions and an emergency kit, even for short trips. She had been worried about snow on the journey back to Prince George and didn’t realize flooding and mudslides would be so severe.
“We were listening to the radio, and we never heard anything about how maybe we shouldn’t be driving,” she said.