Samaritan’s efforts help reduce injuries related to highway crash

NANAIMO – Elderly driver faces charges and a driver's license review for driving wrong way on Island highway and causing four-car pileup.

A city employee is credited with preventing an accident from being much worse and a 77-year-old Nanaimo man will have his driver’s licence reviewed for causing a head-on collision by driving the wrong way on the Island Highway Tuesday morning.

At about 6:45 a.m., Jim Plasteras, city parks operations manager, was driving to work southbound on the Island Highway between Turner and Mostar roads.

Suddenly a pickup truck in front of him swerved for what turned out to be a car, driven by an elderly man, heading northbound in the southbound lanes. The car’s elderly driver had turned left from Mostar Road into the wrong lane on the Island Highway and was driving into oncoming traffic.

“There were headlights coming right at us,” Plasteras said. “I continued on – a little slower and shakier – and I could see in my mirror that (the elderly driver) was continuing to go. There wasn’t any forethought. I just thought this looks like something that isn’t going to end very well.”

Plasteras raced to the Mostar Road intersection, pulled a U-turn and raced back to the Turner Road intersection, got out of his car and flagged down the wayward motorist.

“I was able to get his attention by waving my hands,” Plasteras said. “I was yelling, ‘Stop the car, stop the car.’”

The man stopped when his car ran at low speed into a concrete divider at the intersection.

“I saw this little older man staring at me just blankly,” Plasteras said. “I just instructed him to put it in ‘Park’.”

Plasteras said the man appeared confused and to not know where he was.

As Plasteras was checking on the driver he noticed headlights in his peripheral vision just in time to jump clear before a car driven by a 53-year-old woman collided head-on with the stopped vehicle.

Two more southbound cars, driven by two other women, also crashed into the wreck. The 53-year-old female driver and the elderly man were taken to hospital for minor injuries.

Const. Sue Phillips, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, credits Plasteras’s actions with preventing a more serious incident.

“Clearly Plasteras’s quick thinking prevented this situation from being much worse even though he put himself in harm’s way,” Phillips said. “This type of crash could have easily resulted in multiple fatalities, however Plasteras’s actions really saved the day and shows his dedication to the people of Nanaimo.”

Plasteras, who stayed at the scene to help the four drivers until emergency services arrived, does not consider his actions heroic.

“I had my own safety in mind,” Plasteras said. “I was clear-headed in every move I made – I think.”

The elderly driver is facing a charge of driving without due care and will have a mandatory review of his driver’s licence.

“It got you going before your morning coffee,” Plasteras said. “But it was great that no one got seriously hurt. That’s the bottom line.”