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Who Is At Fault and Who Had the Green Light?

At 3 am on Sunday, November 1st, on empty streets lit intermittently by the stylish signage and window displays along South Granville, a motor vehicle accident propelled the rear end of an ambulance through the glass corner of the Plum clothing store on the northwest corner of Granville Street and West 12th Avenue, and almost the whole front of a white stretch limousine in who-knows-how-many directions.

Hours later the Granville blocks straddling the crash site were still closed off, barricaded by police cars and yellow tape and all the usual markers of horror on the road.  And the few curious passers-by were no doubt haunted by the quiet of it all as the police methodically went about the business of photographing and measuring the aftermath in an effort to reconstruct the chain of events that lead to this macabre and weird result.

Fortunately, there were no passengers in the limousine and the ambulance was on the way to a call.  At the time of writing it is not known whether or not the ambulance was traveling with its flashers and siren activated.  Media reports say the limousine driver and the paramedics were taken to hospital for minor injuries and check-ups respectively.

So the tragedy of serious injury or fatality was avoided, thanks in part no doubt to the size of the vehicles involved and, presumably, the moderate, urban-limit speeds at which both were traveling.  This comment may be subject to correction as more information emerges.

The initial speculation is that the limousine traveling north-bound on Granville Street ‘T-boned’ the ambulance traveling westbound on 12th Avenue through the intersection, at least according to an unnamed witness.  The critical issue will be the color of the traffic control signal lights for each vehicle.

The force of the impact presumably to the left back half of the ambulance spiraled it around driving the right back corner through the large glass windows of the heritage building on the corner.  The force of the impact also spiraled around the limousine.  The extent of the damage to the building structure seems to have been minimal, according to an assessment by Vancouver firefighters—façade-only damage.

So what with the empty streets and stores and the passenger-less vehicles, the outcome was relatively, and fortunately, unserious in terms of human suffering, leaving an opening for the media to have some fun with the cartoonish aspects: “only the mannequins were injured”; “not the sort of door-crasher the [store] …had in mind, when staff hung a large sale sign in the front window” etc.

Nevertheless, it remains oddly disturbing that the narrow avoidance of out-and-out disaster by two vehicles operated by professional drivers on reasonably well-lit, traffic-less streets should be cause for anything but a thankful reflection.  And certainly, there should be no lessening of effort to find out what caused such a serious miscalculation or substandard driving by a specially qualified driver.

All crashes are ‘object lessons’.  T-bone intersection crashes are common, often resulting in a fatality or serious injury.  The cause of this particular example will be explained after the investigation is complete unless there are no reliable independent witnesses, no other independent evidence – engineering or otherwise – and the drivers both claim to have had a green or amber light on entry into the intersection.

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