Randy Duncan normally takes 0 Avenue when he makes the drive to Penticton. But last Saturday, for reasons he can’t explain, he chose 16 Avenue instead.
That decision may have saved a White Rock woman’s life.
Heading east on the thoroughfare around 11:30 a.m. July 14, Duncan could see a cyclist approaching in the “very, very small shoulder” of the westbound lane, and a tandem dump truck coming up behind her. The situation caught the Victoria man’s eye because the dark-red truck wasn’t moving to go around the woman, and it wasn’t tempering its speed to account for the oncoming traffic that made a safe pass difficult.
“I was watching this truck approach the cyclist from behind and my mind said, he’s not slowing down,” Duncan recalled. “I thought, where’s he going? There was no room for him to veer over to the other side of the road.”
Just as the thought finished, the unthinkable happened – the truck’s front bumper hit the rear of the bike, triggering what Duncan said looked like an explosion.
“The bike flew, and parts of the bike, and of course, the cyclist flew through the air. I thought, I’m going to find somebody dead.”
Fortunately for cyclist Peggy White, who was thrown several metres by the impact and landed in a water-filled ditch, that wasn’t the case. The 52-year-old White Rock woman is now recovering in Royal Columbian Hospital from serious injuries, including fractures to her pelvis, sacrum, two vertebrae and two ribs.
As the search continues for the truck and driver involved – Duncan said he is certain he saw the vehicle stop briefly further west on 16 Avenue – police are hailing him and others who stopped to help as heroes.
“With the nature of her injuries, she could easily have drowned, because she wasn’t able to move,” RCMP Sgt. Drew Grainger said. “It’s an absolute miracle that woman wasn’t more seriously injured.”
Duncan said White was semi-conscious when he got to her, and was starting to swallow water. He immediately drew on his first-aid training, supporting her head and neck above the water, and working to reassure White as she began to come around; holding her hand and telling her “it’s OK.”
A second man whom police identified as Peninsula resident Norm Nagel soon joined Duncan at White’s side, supporting her body weight. Both men stayed with White until emergency crews arrived.
Airlifted to hospital, White remains “in a lot of pain,” her daughter, Careen, told Peace Arch News Tuesday.
“She’ll probably have pains for the rest of her life, because of all the breaks.”
The family is “really grateful” to Duncan and Nagel, and Careen, 31, said her mom – who just recently became a grandmother – is hopeful that drivers will learn from what happened to her.
“She just wants people to be more aware of bikers on the road.That’s what she’s hoping out of all of this,” Careen said.
“She was where she was supposed to be on the road.”
Grainger said police don’t know if the driver that hit White was aware of the “just horrendous” collision. While they have “a few leads” in the case, they have been unable to identify the individual and no one has come forward to take responsibility.
Grainger described the stretch of road where White was hit as “not really well-designed for cyclists and large vehicles to be in the same lane of travel.”
Neither Duncan nor Careen White can fathom how anyone who knew they’d hit somebody wouldn’t stop.
The daughter appealed for the driver to come forward.
“If they knew that happened, then do what’s right,” she said. “We just want the person to take responsibility.”
Anyone with information that could help police locate the truck and driver is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502.