Garbage truck cripples ski bridge

Snow isn't on the ground, and yet the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is already dealing with a major setback to the season.

Snow isn’t on the ground, and yet the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club is already dealing with a major setback to the season.

The club’s ski bridge was badly damaged when a garbage truck hit the structure on Friday around 2:30 p.m.

“It’s an unfortunate incident,” said ski club executive director Claude Chabot. “But hopefully we’ll have the bridge back before ski season is too heavily underway.”

The footbridge, which crosses over Sumanik Drive by the Mount McIntyre Rec Centre, was damaged when a PNW Waste Removal front-loader garbage truck collided with the structure as it headed towards Hamilton Boulevard.

Making the incident particularly strange is the fact identical trucks pass under the bridge to empty a dumpster multiple times a week.

PNW owner and operator, Sheldon King, refused comment until an investigation is complete.

If one were to speculate – pointing to the badly damaged dumpster on the forks of the truck and seeing that only the bottom of the bridge sustained serious damage – one explanation for the accident is the truck was raising the dumpster as it passed under the bridge.

“It’s kind of strange that the main trusses were not damaged,” said city engineer Wayne Tuck, who was at the scene shortly after the accident. “Somehow the main beams across the road were fine, it’s just the under stuff.”

Furthermore, one of the two damaged girders of the bridge, removed from the structure for safety reasons, has two shades of green paint on it. One looks smeared on and appears to match that of the crushed dumpster.

No one was hurt in the accident. RCMP has not laid any charges and alcohol has been ruled out as a factor.

“Charges have been explored, but no decision has been made,” said RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers.

In its present state, the bridge is unusable. The damaged middle section of the deck of the bridge has been completely removed and both ends have been blocked off.

The club is currently getting estimates for repairs from construction companies and hopes the loss of the bridge will not interfere with ski season.

The club’s first big race of the season is on Dec. 22. The event will go on with or without the bridge, said Chabot.

“It’s used for any race that uses our south ski trails – at least half, if not more, of our races,” said Chabot. “So it’s very important for that. But we’ll just have to adjust our plans accordingly if it’s not fixed by then.

“We’re not too happy, obviously. The sad thing is that bridge was totally refurbished for the (2007) Canada Winter Games…. We put quite a bit of work into that.”

Sumanik Drive was later reopened when the truck was removed and city engineers determined it safe for traffic to pass under the bridge.

The ski club leases the facility, including the non-vehicular bridge, from the City of Whitehorse. It has not been determined who will foot the bill for the repairs.

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