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Chilliwack RCMP officers tried to rescue canal crash victims

Two Chilliwack RCMP officers jumped into the murky waters of the Vedder Canal last Wednesday to rescue anyone trapped inside an SUV that had flipped and plunged into the canal.

But they were unable to gain access to the vehicle because of the extensive damage done to it as it crashed into concrete barriers, launched into the air and landed in the grassy centre median of Hwy 1 before flipping into the canal.

A Chilliwack man and woman, 57 and 54 years old respectively, were killed in the 4:30 a.m. crash that police are blaming on excessive speed.

"At this point in the investigation, it would appear speed is a factor in the crash," RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen said in a news release.

"It has not been determined if alcohol is a factor," he added. "Weather, road, visibility and vehicle mechanics do not appear to be factors, however, have not been ruled out."

Investigations by RCMP accident analysts, Fraser Valley Traffic Services, and the B.C. Coroner's Office continue.

The names of the two victims, members of a local First Nation, were not released.

Thiessen said the two RCMP officers were treated for hypothermia in hospital after their rescue attempt, and have since been released.

"Once the officers determined they were unable to rescue the occupants, the investigation became a recovery operation and the vehicle was removed from the water via a tow truck," he said.

An eyewitness told police he had been traveling eastbound in the right lane at 100 km/h when a red SUV passed him in the left lane "at a speed faster than his" and then began to "weave and swerve" as it entered the curve approaching the twin bridges over the canal.

"Partway through this curvature, the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox left its lane and traveled into the (passing lane) shoulder of the roadway where it struck the concrete barricades," Thiessen said.

The vehicle flew into the air, landed in the median, and then plunged between the two bridges into the canal.

Thiessen said speed was a factor in four crashes in the Lower Mainland since June 4 that caused four deaths and one serious injury.

"Speed and/or excessive speed, was a factor in all four incidents," he said. "It's a situation the police see too often and we're asking drivers to slow down out there."

Police "enforcement campaigns" to stop speeding and impaired drivers will continue through-out the summer, he said.

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