The Smith Story: What Happened That Day?
You are driving alone along the Three Valley Gap stretch, tired, bored and want to be home. A list of tasks awaits; you forgot to pull something out of the freezer, now you are wondering if you should pick something up at the grocery store. You remind yourself to call the kids and check in on them. You stare straight ahead at the windy road. The vehicle in front of you is very familiar to you; it belongs to the love of your life.
You are driving along the Three Valley Gap stretch, tired bored and want to be home. A list of tasks awaits; you are not sure if anything was taken out of the freezer, now you’re wondering if you should stop at the grocery store. You remind yourself to check in with work quickly then go home and call the kids. The vehicle in the rear view mirror is being driven by the love of your life; suddenly, a giant chunk of rock cascades off the bluff smashing the right side of the vehicle while a sea of black earth follows after, engulfing the vehicle. This is what Ian Smith witnessed in his side view mirror.
Shannon Smiths’ story is not unknown. Her frightening experience has become a source of coffee shop chatter as well as a prime example of why we need to see this section of road upgraded. The Smith story has been heard by our MLA, Doug Clovechok who has informed the family that both Premiere John Horgan and the Transportation Minister have both read their letter about the incident and expressed grave concern. This could be the news our community have been waiting to hear; that it has finally been made clear to Victoria that this stretch of highway is treacherous; however, that is not the real story.
What about Shannon? What about Ian? How does someone go through that and recover? Imagine the person you love the most in this world and having to see that happen to them in your rear-view mirror; the shock and horror of assuming the love of your life has been killed in front of you. Or having a sharp, unforgiving, jagged chunk of mountain slam into you with a vengeance; sending you into a wall of dirt and debris, leaving you to wonder if your time on earth is over.
“Oh, my God, my heart just sank to my stomach. I didn’t know what I was going to find, is she buried under rock, knocked over the guard rail and into the water… Is she going to be hurt, severely injured…or….worse. You’re never prepared for that.” Ian struggled to say. Eight weeks has passed since the incident, Ian refuses to say what the worst outcome could have been. “I don’t want to say it; I don’t like to think that way. It is not a good feeling.”
Ian and his two daughters lives could have changed in an instant had the worst scenario been a reality. This situation has allowed him to appreciate life in a different way, to truly recognize how lucky he is to have Shannon in his life, also, to appreciate just how dangerous the Three Valley Gap section is.
The day of the accident Shannon had no intentions of heading to Salmon Arm; reluctantly she headed out of town to pick up a new vehicle. Returning home the roads were wet, and debris was littered throughout the pass from slides the night before.
Shannon explained to the Revelstoke Current how it happened in a blink of an eye. “I saw a rock maybe the size of a basketball out of my peripheral vision- I thought- typical Three Valley – and as soon as that thought finished, my windshield was black and there was three consecutive crunches, not a crash, a crunch. It’s not like the sounds you hear on TV, it was totally different.”
After the initial hit, Shannon pulled her steering wheel to the right to avoid crashing into the water, a second crunch hit, and in the midst of darkness; a third crunch ensued, with jagged rock, tree branches and dirt piling all around.
“I never saw anything. It was black. After the first impact I pulled the steering wheel, the second crunch I thought I hit him (Ian). At that point, I couldn’t tell where I was.”
One concern for both Ian and Shannon was their two daughters. Naturally, both young ladies were frightened for their mother, and were relieved to know Shannon was safe and with their father, however, that does not stop a parent from playing that paternal role. “As a parent, you are still protective; I tried to keep the girls from seeing pictures of the car. You try to protect them from seeing it, but they are imagining something different. I learned from that… not to protect so much.”
Eight weeks later, Shannon still struggles with her brush with death. Constantly talking about the accident can be hard, and of course passing the location where it all came crashing down can cause a flashback of an undesirable memory.
Shannon was driving 10km per hour shy of the set speed limit that day, had she been going the allotted 90km per hour, the boulder would have landed directly on top of her Chevrolet.
After a long pause, Ian broke the silence, “Half a second faster, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it, or we would be talking about it in a different aspect.”
There was an inviting warmth and charm to the Smith family home; one with love, kindness and support. It was not only infused in their décor and family photos, it was in the way they both looked at each other throughout the interview.
Calm and collected, Ian made a comment that rang true for anyone in this situation, and especially for the Smith family moving forward, “This kind of situation really opens your eyes to how much you truly care about someone.”