‘The whole side started sliding towards us,’: Okanagan man says of rockslide

Lake Country resident Malcolm Hett was clearing rocks from Pelmewash Parkway Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, when he heard a crack and the rock wall started to slide towards him, damaging his van in the process. (Malcolm Hett - Contributed)Lake Country resident Malcolm Hett was clearing rocks from Pelmewash Parkway Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, when he heard a crack and the rock wall started to slide towards him, damaging his van in the process. (Malcolm Hett - Contributed)
Lake Country resident Malcolm Hett was clearing rocks from Pelmewash Parkway Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, when he heard a crack and the rock wall started to slide towards him, damaging his van in the process. (Malcolm Hett - Contributed)
Lake Country resident Malcolm Hett was clearing rocks from Pelmewash Parkway Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, when he heard a crack and the rock wall started to slide towards him, damaging his van in the process. (Malcolm Hett - Contributed)
Area resident Malcolm Hett said he’s glad he moved his van when he did or the damage could have been more substantial. ‘Just a minute before this, I was parked on the opposite side of the road clearing the rocks from the first smaller slide,’ he said. (Malcolm Hett - Facebook)Area resident Malcolm Hett said he’s glad he moved his van when he did or the damage could have been more substantial. ‘Just a minute before this, I was parked on the opposite side of the road clearing the rocks from the first smaller slide,’ he said. (Malcolm Hett - Facebook)

It may be the best luck or the worst, but Lake Country resident Malcolm Hett has it.

Hett stopped on his way home from Vernon to clear some rocks off Pelmewash Parkway that had fallen from the rock face along the old highway Wednesday, Feb. 3. But right before the job was done, a second slide happened, blasting his van with “baseball-sized rocks” and spooking his Aussie Shepherd, Ghoulie.

“I came across a pile of rocks, about 10 wheelbarrow loads,” he said, noting it’s not uncommon for two to three rocks to pepper the parkway.

“I wouldn’t want to be the one not paying attention and accidentally drive into that,” he said, adding it’s not the first time he’s stopped to clear the roadway of debris.

Hett was quickly joined by a keen helper, Oyama Coun. Todd McKenzie, who quickly suggested Hett move his van after a sizable rock let loose from above.

“A pretty big rock, about 30-feet behind me, above my van, landed beside it and shattered, spraying up the side of it,” Hett said. “My dog was in the van, shaken up from the impact.”

Hett moved the vehicle to the other side of the street and let Ghoulie out while he and McKenzie continued to clear debris.

But ultimately, it was all for naught.

“We were a few minutes away from calling it good and that’s when we heard the big crack,” he said. “The whole side started sliding towards us.

“We had to act on instinct,” he said. “Luckily, we both had an instinct to run.”

Hett said he has never seen anything like this before.

“Especially not on a well-travelled road,” he said. “I’d expect this sort of thing to maybe happen on a forest service road, but not two minutes from where I live.”

Rocks dumped onto the roadway, denting and dinging his van. Luckily, Hett was able to drive away from the scene an hour or so later, after the District of Lake Country crews cleared some of the debris.

Now, Hett finds himself questioning what work the district had done to assess and mitigate the risk of a rockfall like this when it took over the old highway from the transportation ministry in 2018.

The stability of the rock wall, however, has been a point of conversation for residents for some time, he said.

“It was just a matter of time,” he said. “But that’s relative, a ‘matter of time’ could mean today.”

Hett said he hopes this instance is the only one that needs to occur before more work is done to stabilize the hillside.

“God forbid if someone is walking along the road, or some small car is driving along,” he said.

READ MORE: Rocks pepper Pelmewash Parkway in Lake Country

READ MORE: Crews work to clear rockfall on Lake Country road


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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