Two people are dead and several others injured after a multi-vehicle accident closed Highway 99 north of Squamish for several hours Tuesday night.
The crash between a southbound minivan and northbound pickup truck happened just before 7:30 p.m. at Cheekye River Bridge, near the Alice Lake turn off.
The northbound pickup truck, being driven by a lone occupant, crossed the centre line and collided with a southbound minivan carrying seven occupants, according to a Squamish RCMP news release on Wednesday.
Two of the seven people travelling in the minivan were dead at the scene, according to Cst. Mike Halskov of Squamish's E-Div Traffic Services.
Police have located and notified next of kin for the deceased individuals, however their names will not be released, according to the RCMP.
One other person who was in the minivan is in critical condition, while two passengers sustained minor injuries, Halskov said.
The driver of the pickup truck is in serious condition in hospital.
The Sea to Sky Highway was closed in both directions for more than eight hours while crews worked to assess and clear the accident.
Whistler's Laura Tamblyn Watts was on the highway headed home northbound at about 7:30 p.m., she said, when suddenly traffic ground to a halt. She was about 30 seconds and five vehicles behind the crash, she estimates.
She has been driving the Sea to Sky for about 20 years and had never seen the number of first responders who rushed to the scene, she said. She counted four ambulances arrive as well as Squamish Fire Rescue and RCMP; she told The Chief Tuesday evening.
She added that she was impressed by how many first responders arrived on the scene so quickly.
During the more than an hour's wait in stopped traffic, Tamblyn Watts said it was touching to see how drivers helped each other out with cups of coffee and the like.
She described it as a "very Canadian experience."
After about an hour or so waiting for the road to reopen, an RCMP constable told drivers in line to turn around as the highway would remain closed for six to eight hours more.
Tamblyn Watts said she secured one of the last rooms at the Sandman Hotel in Squamish for the night. While she was being checked in, several people called the hotel asking for rooms, and at least one family was sitting in the lobby without a room for the night, she said.
"Squamish will be very busy tonight," she said, adding she felt very fortunate to be able to find a place to stay and felt terrible for the those who had more urgent reasons to travel between Squamish and Whistler.
Mostly though, she worries for the people involved in the tragic accident, she said.
Because she was so close to it, the scene left her shaken, Tamblyn Watts said.
"It puts those New Year's resolutions in perspective," she said, adding the desire to lose 10 lbs doesn't seem so important after being so close to a traumatic event.
Anyone with information regarding this collision, or the events that preceded it, who have not already spoken to police are asked to call Sea to Sky Traffic Services at 604-892-6100.
The police also remind drivers to ensure their vehicles are equipped with proper winter tires and be mindful of rapidly changing road and weather conditions as they travel.
***Please note we have updated this story since it was first published as new information was learned.