Family members have confirmed that the driver killed in an accident involving two semi-trailers near Ashcroft on December 30 was 62-year-old Wayne Beierbach of Chilliwack.
The accident happened at approximately 12:20 p.m. on Highway 1 near Cornwall Road. RCMP and the Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Department were quickly on scene and closed the highway, which did not reopen until 7 p.m. The thick fog that blanketed the area for much of the morning may have been a factor, although it began to clear shortly after the accident occurred.
A witness who was parked in the lot of the nearby Esso travel centre told The Journal that he was on the phone when he heard a sound “like a train”. It appeared that the semi driven by Beierbach, which was travelling north on Highway 1, hit the side of another semi which was turning south onto Highway 1 from Cornwall Road. Beierbach was reported dead at the scene. The occupants of the other semi did not appear to be seriously injured.
The witness The Journal spoke with said that the cab of Beierbach’s semi, which slid to a halt beside the travel centre, was on fire, and he grabbed a fire extinguisher and joined another onlooker in putting out the flames. Other people on site arrived with first aid kits, but it was clear there was nothing that could be done to help the driver.
Beierbach, who drove between the Lower Mainland and Alberta for Jim City Transport Inc., was a “career truck driver”, his sister Roxanne Marr told The Journal. “He wanted to quit doing highway stuff and do more local stuff, but that wasn’t available.” Beierbach had two daughters and two grandchildren.
“He loved motorcycles and AC/DC, children and animals, especially dogs and eagles,” says Marr. He also loved to tell friends and family about a deep-sea diving trip he made to Mexico several years ago.
Carole Ann Webster, a driver who was friends with Beierbach, says, “I find myself asking ‘Why him?’ over and over. [He was] the kindest and nicest person.”
Heather Peters Cullen and her husband Conroy had known Beierbach for several years. “He was a gentle giant,” says Heather. “He would give you the shirt off his back. He loved his family and he loved to ride his Harley when he wasn’t working.
“We rode with him a few times when he and Conroy were both off work at the same time, and we did the Chilliwack toy run together a few years ago. He always had the greatest and funniest stories, and you could always count on him to make you laugh.”
Thick fog blanketed the area of the accident, not clearing until after the collision occurred, as this picture taken at the time shows. Photo by Michael Verkerke.
Robin Herrell of Kimberley, B.C. knew Beierbach for 28 years, and her husband Murray knew him for more than 40 years. “Wayne watched our kids, and we watched his,” says Robin. “He always went by the books, never went over the speed limit. It was shocking to hear about it.”
Murray says that Beierbach called him almost every day, sometimes several times, and that they would be on the phone for up to two hours at a time. “I talked to him on Thursday night, and he was getting loaded up in Vancouver. I said I’d talk to him on Friday, but couldn’t get him then or on Saturday; the calls just went through to voice mail.”
Murray says he knew a storm was coming through the area, and that Beierbach was taking the canyon, so he checked to see if there had been an accident. He found a report that said two semis had been totalled but that the drivers had survived.
“Then on Saturday my wife said she’d had a message from one of Wayne’s daughters, and that I had to call her.” When he heard the news, he says he checked the story he had seen, only to find it was a report of an accident earlier in the year. “My son found the [Journal] site, and when I saw the picture of his truck I thought ‘What did he hit?’”
“He and I were close, and we never had any beefs. He was a good man, always happy-go-lucky. When I got up in the morning and was bored, I used to call him. I started to call him on Sunday morning, and then realized he’s not here. It’s unfortunate. Yesterday was tough.”
Sharon Hibak, whose RV Beierbach purchased when he moved to Chilliwack from Medicine Hat, says her neighbour was a “quiet, peaceful guy. He kept to himself but was always in a good mood. He was friendly to kids, and was an all-around great neighbour.”
She recalls that she asked him one day if she could borrow his truck to get to work. “He just said ‘Here are the keys.’ He was always ready to help.
“If I had to use one word to describe him, it would be ‘jovial’.”
Marr agrees that “jovial” is a good word to use to describe her brother. “He was also a free spirit, and he had an infectious laugh. He’s going to be missed, and he’ll never be forgotten.”
Debris from the accident on Highway 1. Photo by Barbara Roden.