The driver of the Columbia Fuels tanker which crashed and dumped fuel into Goldstream River in April has been charged with impaired driving.
Crown counsel swore three charges on Oct. 12, nearly six months after the crash that dumped 42,000 litres of gasoline and 700 litres of diesel into the river.
James Allan Charles Smith, 34, of Nanaimo, is charged with driving while impaired, driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.08, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Smith wasn’t charged with assaulting a police officer, as alleged by West Shore RCMP during his arrest at Victoria General Hospital.
“The charge assessment took longer than most charge assessments,” said Neil MacKenzie, who speaks for the Criminal Justice Branch. “Given the circumstances, the Crown had to review the evidence carefully. In a case like this one, there is the added delay getting the file from police.”
On April 16 around 6 p.m., a Columbia b-train fuel tanker lost control and plowed into a rock face on the Malahat Drive s-curves outside of Goldstream Provincial Park.
The southbound vehicle overturned, its cab became embedded in rock and the rear fuel tank was gouged open. Most of the fuel spilled into a culvert pipe that goes under the highway and directly into the river.
No criminal charges have been laid for the actual fuel spill, although the Ministry of Environment confirmed the Conservation Officer Service and Environment Canada are still conducting an investigation. A ministry spokesperson couldn’t say what charges could be sought, or when the investigation might conclude.
MacKenzie said the Crown hasn’t received any charge recommendations with regard to the fuel spill.
The spill closed the Malahat for nearly a full day, prompting the Ministry of Transportation to change how it responds to highway shutdown situations.
A few pockets of fuel remain near the river, and monitoring of Goldstream and surrounding ecosystem is expected to last years. Columbia Fuels is working with government agencies and First Nations to bring the river system back to full health.
Smith has a first appearance scheduled for Nov. 24 at Western Communities Courthouse.