TOFINO, B.C. - An ambulance making an early-morning trip down a twisting, steep highway winding around a mountain lake skidded off the road and plunged into the water, killing the two attendants on board Tuesday.
B.J. Chute, spokesman for the province's paramedics union, confirmed the two members - one male and one female - were killed after their vehicle crashed into Kennedy Lake in the early morning.
Rescue teams were working to retrieve the bodies, but were thwarted by the presence of a black bear. Air horns sounded as the teams worked, an effort to warn the bruin to stay away.
Skid marks could be seen on Highway 4 where the vehicle apparently jumped a short, concrete embankment. The highway at that point is at a steep grade.
"It's very twisty, very windy and, of course, it's a pretty fair drop on that particular stretch down to the lake itself," said Eric Russcher, mayor of Ucluelet, about 50 kilometres west along the highway.
"It's the narrowness of the road. If a semi trailer was coming down one side of it, there's no room for anybody else coming up the other side."
Russcher said municipal officials in the area have taken the matter up with the transportation ministry, including, most recently, at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler last month.
"These are discussions that have gone on over a number of years.
Future plans are (to) relocate that section of the road, but it hasn't been determined yet."
Search and rescue officials and a Cormorant helicopter began a search of the area after ambulance dispatch notified them the emergency crew was overdue.
A highway worker then found debris in Kennedy Lake.
The ambulance had left Port Alberni at about 4:30 a.m. and was on its way back to Tofino after transferring a patient, said RCMP Sgt. Kevin Murray.