Crews remove the wreckage of the Columbia Fuels truck from the Malahat Drive on April 17

Driver linked to Goldstream fuel spill to plead guilty to one count

A truck driver who crashed and spilled 47,000 litres of fuel into Goldstream River last year will plead guilty to one charge

A former Columbia Fuels truck driver who crashed and spilled 42,700 litres of fuel into Goldstream River last year will plead guilty to one of his charges, his lawyer says.

James Allan Charles Smith, of Nanaimo, is charged with driving while impaired, driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.08 and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

The allegations stem from when a Victoria-bound Columbia Fuels truck flipped in the s-turns of the Malahat Drive on April 16, 2011, and plowed into the rock face.

With its tanks gashed open, the truck spilled 42,000 litres of gasoline and 700 litres of diesel into a culvert that emptied into the popular fish-bearing stream in Goldstream provincial park.

Smith’s defence lawyer Dale Marshall told the Gazette his client will enter a guilty plea to one of the three counts, but declined to say which one. “Things might change,” he said.

It appears Smith would likely plead guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, as opposed to one of the charges linked to impaired driving.

A scheduled pre-trial conference Thursday at Western Communities Courthouse turned into Marshall requesting the court to fix a date for a sentencing hearing. The Crown prosecutor didn’t object. That hearing is April 11 in Colwood.

Smith no longer works for Columbia Fuels and Marshall said his client “is not driving” for a living.

The dramatic crash killed hundreds or possibly thousands of fish in Goldstream River and closed the Malahat highway for nearly 24 hours, stranding hundreds of drivers.

The crash response and poor communication with drivers forced the Ministry of Transportation to reassess how it manages highway closures.

Eleven months after the crash, soil vapor extraction equipment is still drawing fuel out of the ground at two locations — next to the crash site on the highway and one area next to the river.

Graham Knox, with the Ministry of Environment, said contaminant levels ebb and flow with the level of groundwater pushing through the fractured bedrock, but overall the amount of fuel in the ground is declining.

The fuel pocket next to the river has likely leaked into the water a few times, Knox said, but the vast majority of contaminant readings are below provincial maximums.

“The soil vapor extractors are chipping away. (Fuel) is in the soil but it’s not impacting the fish,” Knox said. “Generally we’re quite happy. There’s no impact on aquatic organisms in the river, but the remediation at the site will continue for another eight months or a year.”

Knox expects Columbia Fuels to soon present a draft report outlining a restoration plan for the Goldstream River ecosystem.

The working group of government agencies, First Nations and Columbia Fuels needs to agree on an overall plan to restore Goldstream back to its state of health prior to the fuel spill.

The plan could include projects such as replacing spawning gravel flushed into the estuary during winter storms or replacing brood stock with the hatchery.

Knox said the ministry isn’t concerned about a particular dollar figure underwriting the restoration plan, but the plan must be adequate to bring the river back to full health.

“What we want to see is a proposal that is reasonable to restore a public asset for what has been lost and damaged,” he said.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Work begins on Sooke’s Evergreen Centre expansion

More trees will be planted to replace those lost

Researchers head out from Sidney to explore Canada’s largest underwater volcano

The Explorer Seamount is as large as Greater Vancouver and full of previously undiscovered species

RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

Police believe crime an isolated incident

Prolific offender found sleeping in Oak Bay resident’s car

Of 106 calls to 911 last week, eight were abandoned

RCMP identify Sidney bank robbery suspect, believe he is still on Vancouver Island

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Dashcam video captures moment Victoria cyclist struck

Police seeking cyclist captured in video

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Rare white ravens spotted again in mid-Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

Most Read