Village in northwestern B.C. cut off to vehicles after snowplow badly damages bridge

The Kispiox Bridge near Hazelton, B.C., is closed after being badly damaged by a snowplow Thursday morning.

Photos sent to CBC show broken timbers along the length of the wood structure.

The bridge is the only way in and out of Kispiox Village, a First Nations community of about 750, and the Kispiox Valley by road. Helicopters have been put on standby for people stranded in the area of northwest British Columbia in the event of an emergency.

In a release, Dawson Road Maintenance said one of its snowplows “clipped several of the wood bridge’s vertical support structures with a wing blade, causing structural damage.”

The company said engineer and repair crews were on site and that the bridge was open to foot traffic.

Another view of the damage to the Kispiox Bridge.(submitted by Edna Boyd)

According to an earlier Facebook post by Kispiox band manager Blanka Jecminkova, the bridge deck has been shifting and cracking.

Witness Sadie Johnson was on her way to work when she saw the snowplow drive onto the one-lane bridge with the plow blade still down.

“When the blade hit the bridge the whole bridge shook,” said Johnson.

“It did damage to the beginning of the bridge but he didn’t stop. He kept going and he hit three other beams in the middle of the bridge. It looked like he was going to stop and pull the blade up but he still kept going and hit the tail end of the bridge.”

Johnson said she crossed the bridge in her vehicle right after the snowplow, and then watched a school bus drive across.

“We had no idea it had shifted a metre underneath,” she said. “It was only later I learned they had to shut it down because of major damage.”

According to Johnson, people like her who have to drive across the bridge daily are now forced to walk across and pick up a ride on the other side.

Kathy Clay, president of the Kispiox Valley Community Association, said early word is the bridge will have to be replaced.

She said work that has been started to open the Mitten Forest Service Road as a detour will take time and will be of limited value.

“It’s a 230-kilometre one-way road from here to Hazelton,” she said “It’s our get-away road but it’s a six-hour round-trip to Hazelton, instead of 30 minutes. So that’s not really feasible, but it is of use to bring in propane or things people really need.”

The Ministry of Transportation said there are currently no detours available and no estimated time of reopening.

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