Photo: Family photo
Alan Tennant and his wife, Rona, were driving on the Trans-Canada Highway through the Rocky Mountains earlier this month when the unthinkable happened.
The two were on their way to Golden, BC, to celebrate the anniversary of their daughter, Lisa, and her partner, Laura, who got married at a mountain resort two years ago.
Lisa Tennant was driving with her wife and their two children – Matéo on 5 and two and a half year old Aviana – through Kicking Horse Canyon, a rugged section of the highway between Field, BC and Golden, when a large boulder smashed through the top of their jeep.
They had been on speakerphone with her parents, who were about an hour behind.
“We had a good old chat,” Alan Tennant recalled this week in an interview. “The kids were wide awake and excited, called us and laughed away, and Lisa and Laura made jokes.
“Laura said something funny just a few seconds before – I can not even remember what it was – and we all laughed, and then (we) suddenly heard this awful crash.”
Tennant said his wife shouted, “What was that?” and the children began to cry.
“Lisa … started yelling, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God’ … and then, ‘This is bad. This is bad. Then the call dropped.’
His daughter, he said, had ended the call to stop and call 911. The boulder had crashed into the passenger side and hit Laura Tennant, 38, before landing on the back seat between the children. Tennant died a day later at the hospital.
A tractor driver who removed the stone from the car told the family that it weighed about 113 kilos.
In a statement, BC Transportation and Infrastructure offered condolences to Laura Tennant’s family and friends.
“This was a tragic event related to freeze / thaw conditions that occur frequently at this time of year,” it said.
The ministry noted that rockfall is a danger along many BC highways. It said it has warning signs in many places, including this area, and “keeps an eye on falling rocks” on its real-time signs when there is a greater risk.
Alan Tennant said his family was not at all aware that this could happen and wants others to be aware of the risks of driving through the area.
“Lisa is not even focused on guilt. She could not stand the thought of someone else getting hurt,” he said. “It can be prevented.
“These two were amazing mothers. We teased them all the time about researching things. It’s about safety.”
He said his daughter-in-law, who was born and raised in Montreal, was a ski racer in Quebec before moving to Alberta, but was not a risk taker.
He said his family might not have taken the highway if they knew there was a possibility of rock falls.
“If the government had used the sign that talks about delays as if it were a hassle, and instead said that traffic is delayed because there are a reasonable number of large rocks landing on cars, we would have (taken a second route), “he said.
BC has been working to upgrade the Trans-Canada Highway in the area to four lanes from two. The last phase, which is the most difficult stretch through the gorge, is expected to be completed in the winter of 2023.
The ministry said in the statement that the rockfall was not related to the construction as work on that section had not yet started.
Alan Tennant is not so sure.
“It’s a construction site,” he said. “We all want the highway to be safer, but is there anyone who will guarantee that it will not cause things to break free or become uneasy higher up?”
Tennant said his family does not require an investigation but feels the need to warn others.
“All we want people to do is think twice and be safe.”