ABBOTSFORD, BC. Left to right Joyce Verwoerd and Camille Timmermans at memorial to the two victims of a fatal crash on July 26 at the intersection. Hayden Turcotte, 22, died in the collision, while Madeline Stroup, 23, died a week later in hospital. Location Marion Rd & Wells Line, Abbotsford………(Photo credit: Francis Georgian / Postmedia) .August 08 2019. , Abbotsford, August 08 2019. Reporter: , ( Francis Georgian / PNG staff photo) ( Prov / Sun News ) 00058334A [PNG Merlin Archive]
Francis Georgian / PNG
It’s been more than a year since Camille Timmermans was inches away from death.That phrase, used by an Abbotsford Police officer after Timmermans and her husband were pulled from a Sumas Prairie ditch after a serious car crash in April 2018, has remained with the Abbotsford woman as she continues to struggle with health problems.It was also the first thing she thought about when she learned of another crash in the same area two weeks ago.“I curled up on the floor and couldn’t move for an hour,” she said.The crash, on Friday, July 26, claimed the lives of Hayden Turcotte, 22, and Madeline Stroup, 23. The dating couple, along with another friend, were on their way to a family cabin when they collided with a vehicle driven by a man in his 70s. Turcotte died on the day of the crash, while Stroup, the daughter of Burnaby Fire Department Capt. Dean Stroup, died of her injuries in hospital a week later.
Madeline Stroup was airlifted to hospital following a crash in Abbotsford on July 26, but later died in hospital. Her boyfriend, Hayden Turcotte, also died.
Submitted photo /
People who live in the Sumas Prairie, the area south of Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, said they’ve become used to the sound of sirens on busy afternoons when Highway 1 is backed up and drivers divert onto country roads. On a neighbourhood Facebook page, several people shared their own close calls while driving through the prairie, while others said they regularly witnessed drivers speeding through intersections without stopping.After hearing about two serious accidents in the span of two weeks in 2018, Joyce Verwoerd decided to do some research. Data obtained by Verwoerd from the Abbotsford Police Department showed that since 2010, there have been 233 collisions and seven fatalities on roads in the Sumas Prairie. The numbers do not include crashes and deaths since January.“I was shocked,” she said. “For each of those incidents, the ripple effect is huge — on the people involved, their families, their finances.”Verwoerd and Timmermans took their findings to the City of Abbotsford’s Transportation Advisory Committee in January. They didn’t propose a single solution, but asked the committee to improve safety by considering four-way stops, flashing lights and rumble strips.Verwoerd compared road conditions to the Saskatchewan highway where the Humboldt Broncos bus crash happened in April 2018. In Abbotsford, the roads through farmers’ fields are laid out in a grid, with speed limits ranging from 70 to 80 km/hr. North-south roads typically have a stop sign, while those running east-west do not. Many of the accidents happen when a driver fails to stop at a stop sign.After the presentation, the committee agreed to study the issue, expanding their inquiries to include all of Abbotsford’s rural intersections, according to an email update sent to Verwoerd in May.But since that update, Verwoerd has heard nothing from the city.After the double fatality two weeks ago, fed-up residents wrote a letter to mayor and council asking them to speed up the process.“Two more people did not make it home after travelling through Sumas Prairie. The death toll keeps rising,” wrote Gord Houweling, who drafted the letter with input from neighbours. “How many more accidents need to happen before the leaders of our city actually stand up and say something needs to done? We understand there is a greater problem and our highways are at their capacity and this will continue to bring more traffic to our country roads. All the more reason to do something.”
Joyce Verwoerd at Marion Rd and Wells Line, Abbotsford.
Francis Georgian /
Abbotsford Police spokesperson Sgt. Judy Bird said the area provides “unique challenges” for officers, as it is “flat, vast and the speed limits are higher than the regular city core speeds.”She urged people to be aware of signage in areas that they do not regularly travel.“Stop signs are to be obeyed even when there does not appear to be vehicles approaching,” she added.Bird said the police department is very concerned about unsafe and “outright dangerous driving habits” observed on roadways.In a statement, the City of Abbotsford said the city has many rural intersections, but they are “not currently aware of an increase in incidents in the Sumas Prairie area.”As part of the city’s road safety strategy, an analysis of rural roads is underway and will be provided to the Transportation Advisory Committee in the fall. “Within this report there will be recommendations for any required road safety enhancements across all rural roads in Abbotsford, with a focus on areas experiencing significant crash rates,” said the statement.Related