UPDATE: Fraser River crash kills two young men
Chilliwack is mourning the loss of two 18-year-olds after a single vehicle accident in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Connor Dash and Gerritt Niessen were driving over frozen gravel on Ballam Road when the truck they were in left the road and tumbled 20 feet down an embankment into an icy Fraser River.
The bodies of both young men when were found inside the vehicle, Chilliwack RCMP said.
Chilliwack Search and Rescue personnel were called out at about 1:10 a.m., to be on-hand for recovery or should a river search be required to locate survivors, said SAR search manager Doug Fraser.
Icy conditions at the time likely factored into the truck going over the bank, he said.
"It was very slippery since that part of Ballam Road doesn't get much if any sun at all," Fraser noted.
Emergency responders working at the crash scene had to tread extra carefully on the iced surface of the gravel road.
SAR gets called to attend that section of Ballam Road "quite frequently," said the search manager. Sometimes it's for motor vehicle accidents, but more often than not it's to recover stolen vehicles that get dumped in the Fraser.
"When we were called out for this one, that was our first thought, hoping that no one would be found in the vehicle, and that it was just another stolen truck.
"But tragically that was not the case, and two boys lost their lives. My heart goes out to their parents."
They tried to access the site by deploying the SAR jet boat at first, after launching from Island 22, but had to turn back due to thick ice in the Minto Channel.
"It was terribly frustrating," Fraser said, and SAR members returned to their hall to deploy the white water rescue raft.
Wearing dry suits to protect them from the elements, two SAR members pulled a cable from the tow truck out to the partially submerged vehicle and hooked it to the axle.
The community is now left to grieve the terrible loss of two well-known young men, said the long-time SAR volunteer.
"When something like this happens in Chilliwack, I am reminded that despite of how it has grown, it is still a small, close-knit town in many ways."
Chilliwack RCMP say they are continuing their investigation into the incident.
"“The tragic deaths of these young men has had an impact on the entire community," said RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail.
Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to call the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611.
Watch www.theprogress.com for more information as it becomes available