Remembering those lost on the Bamfield Road While Moving Forward with Safety Improvements

September 13 marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic accident that claimed the lives of two University of Victoria (UVIC) students. John Geerdes and Emma Machado were travelling the Bamfield road en route to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre as part of a field trip through UVIC when the bus they were on slid down the embankment which led to their death. This tragedy has resulted in UVIC creating an independent review of the incident whose report was released in July. This independent review and report issued several recommendations, which UVIC has ultimately adopted and implemented.

Tragedies on the Bamfield road are something that has been all too familiar to Huu-ay-aht, whose homelands are accessible only through utilizing the road. Countless citizens who live in Anacla or frequent the road have a story to tell that highlights the challenges drivers of the road face, such as dust, potholes, washouts, and narrow sections of road.

In September 2020, the Province of B.C. and Huu-ay-aht First Nations announced that decades of Huu-ay-aht work was finally paying off. Together the province and the Nation are moving forward with safety improvements on this vital stretch of road.

“The lives lost on this road is just one reason Huu-ay-aht has dedicated countless hours over decades to upgrade the Bamfield road,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis. “I will never forget the September night when I arrived on the scene of the bus crash. Huu-ay-aht has never wavered from our belief that we need to upgrade the road to keep people safe. I am proud that this project is finally underway, and I hope it will mean no more lives are lost on the Bamfield road.”

As work begins on the upgrades, the potholes will become a thing of the past, but the lives the road has claimed will never be forgotten.

“By partnering with us on this project, the Province honours our elders and the Nation’s sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of….), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One) with this project,” explains Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “My family suffered a great loss when Tayii Ḥaw̓ił Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on the Bamfield road. The upgrades will be a legacy to anyone who has died on the road. By working together, we will ensure this vital link is safe for generations to come.”

The initiative led by Huu-ay-aht First Nations and supported by important stakeholders in the forest industry, as well as the Provincial and Federal Governments, is currently underway. The Bamfield road will soon feature significant safety upgrades. The Bamfield Main Road Surfacing Project will see the entirety of the Bamfield Main Road chip sealed and widened in important sections, as well as paving of problem sections along the road. As of September 2021, a field survey has been conducted for 76 kilometers of the road. This data has been translated into a 3D model and will be utilized for the road and drainage design team. Relevant environmental experts have been engaged to ensure that the road improvements do not significantly impact existing environments and wildlife in the area.