By TERA CAMUS Cape Breton Bureau and The Canadian Press
Two people are dead after a vehicle plunged off a wooden bridge in Guysborough County on Friday as the eastern end of the province was battered by a blizzard.
RCMP say the vehicle was travelling on Highway 16 in Halfway Cove when it went out of control at about 4 p.m.
It went through a bridge guardrail and into water. The vehicle smashed through ice and came to rest on its roof on the bottom.
The victims were recovered but pronounced dead at hospital.
Their names have not been released.
The Mounties say road and weather conditions were poor at the time with high winds and blowing snow.
Further east in Cape Breton, roads were treacherous, ferry crossings were cancelled and heavy shoreline erosion was feared as a blizzard dumped 30 centimetres of snow on the region.
High winds, heavy seas and plenty of snow were expected to continue to create havoc on Cape Breton Island overnight and well into today, Environment Canada said.
A heavy sea surge caused by a low-pressure system was expected to cause potential damage along Cape Breton’s western shoreline, particularly near Inverness County’s coastal cliffs.
All schools cancelled classes. By late afternoon, the cancellations included Cape Breton University, provincial and federal government offices, businesses, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, the Sterling Mall in Glace Bay, the Sydney Shopping Centre and Mayflower Mall.
The Robbie Burns dinner hosted by the Gaelic Society was also cancelled, as were bingo games in Membertou. But YukYuk’s show at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre was still scheduled to be held, as was the sold-out match up between Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the Lewiston Maniacs, featuring Eskasoni’s Chad Denny.
Marine Atlantic passengers were being advised to call ahead for a report on scheduled ferry crossings overnight to Newfoundland because northeasterly gales reaching 90 kilometres per hour were expected by suppertime.
Police advised motorists to stay home.
"We’re towing all vehicles to allow the plows to get through," said Const. Scott Reeves, with Cape Breton police.
Other events planned for the weekend have been postponed or cancelled across Cape Breton, including a Cape Breton University seminar for police and other officials on dealing with domestic violence. The event will be held Feb. 10 and 11.
Woman, son die in car accident
By KRISTEN LIPSCOMBE Staff Reporter
Janice Elizabeth Myatt and her teenage son, Myles Phillip Myatt, victims of a fatal weekend car crash in Guysborough County, will be remembered this Friday at the Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Canso.
Ms. Myatt and 17-year-old Myles, both of Upper Whitehead, died after their car plunged through the guardrail of a wooden bridge, through the ice and into chilly waters late Friday afternoon while travelling along Highway 16 in Halfway Cove, Guysborough County.
After being recovered from the water, Ms. Myatt and her son were pronounced dead at the hospital. High winds and blowing snow made road conditions horrific at the time, RCMP officials have said.
According to his obituary, Myles was in Grade 11 at Canso Academy and loved hockey. He played for both the school’s hockey team and for the Canso and Area Minor Hockey Bluefins midget team. He also enjoyed sailing and spending time with his family.
Ms. Myatt is described in her obituary as "a loving mother and devoted wife" as well as a dedicated "hockey mom." She was the community hairdresser and cared dearly for her customers, the obituary said.
She and her son were both active in St. Joseph’s Parish in Port Felix.
Myles is survived by two brothers, a girlfriend and his paternal and maternal grandparents. Ms. Myatt is survived by her husband Robert, two sons and several brothers and sisters.
The funeral mass starts at 11 a.m. Friday and will be followed by a reception in the Canso Fire Hall. There will be visitation from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Dennis Haverstock Funeral Home in Canso.
CANSO — Townspeople came together Friday to pay their respects to a mother and son who died in a crash last week.
A morning funeral was held in Canso for Janice Myatt and her teenage son, Myles, who died Jan. 26 after the family vehicle broke through a wooden guardrail on a bridge in Halfway Cove, Guysborough County.
"When grief is in a community, the whole community suffers with one another," said Rev. Daniel Boudreau, who presided over the service, held at Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church.
The church, which Father Boudreau said usually holds 400 to 500 people, was filled before the start of the 11 a.m. service, with extra seating required in the balcony and the aisles.
He said this was a testament to what the area hairdresser and her hockey-player son meant to Canso, which has a population of less then 1,000.
"Everyplace where we could place a chair, we had one," Father Boudreau said. An RCMP investigation is underway into the crash, although high winds and blowing snow at the time of the crash were believed to have been contributing factors.
But the bridge itself, which was built in the 1970s on Highway 16 over Chedabucto Bay, has drawn criticism from people like Coun. Fin Armsworthy, who is calling on Transportation Minister Angus MacIsaac to hold an inquiry into the safety of the structure.
Department spokesman Dan Davis said Friday that an internal investigation was launched last weekend and he hopes to have more information next week. A concrete barrier is now in place in front of the part of the guardrail that was damaged in the crash.
Mr. Davis said it is too early to determine whether metal guardrails will be installed, but Mr. Armsworthy said these are used on all the other bridges along Highway 16 between Canso and Guysborough.
Was bridge at fatal crash site safe?
Ex-road worker, local politicians have questions
By JIM MacDONALD
HALFWAY COVE — A former maintenance worker with the Transportation Department believes a fatal car crash that killed a mother and son last week could have been prevented had the province modernized the bridge when other upgrades in the area were undertaken in 2005.
Earl Greencorn, who retired for health reasons three years ago after a quarter-century with the department, lives less than a kilometre from where Janice Myatt and her teenage son, Myles, drove through the wooden guardrail of a bridge over Chedabucto Bay last Friday in Halfway Cove, Guysborough County.
The section of guardrail the car crashed through was secured with spikes instead of bolts and was only a few feet from a metal guardrail that Mr. Greencorn said was installed about two years ago to replace a cable security barrier.
As he talked about the tragedy Thursday while sitting at his kitchen table, he wondered what the outcome might have been if the province had replaced the wooden planks with metal guardrails when other work was carried out along Highway 16.
"Yes, it should have been . . . done (with metal) the same as all the rest of the bridges," Mr. Greencorn said.
"I say it would have been a whole lot stronger and who knows. It may have kept the car up."
The funeral for Janice and Myles Myatt is this morning at the Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Canso, near their home community of Upper Whitehead.
Mr. Greencorn learned of the accident when a neighbour’s son summoned him for help, saying his mother had seen a car go through the bridge.
When they arrived about 10 minutes after the crash, the Myatts’ 1996 Pontiac Grand Am was upside down and underwater.
"At that point, there was really nothing we could do," Mr. Greencorn said. "I’m not a good swimmer."
The department is investigating the accident and reviewing what role the bridge may have played.
The Halfway Cove span was built in the late 1970s, said Transportation Department spokesman Dan Davis, who was still trying to check the department’s records late Thursday afternoon regarding the bridge’s condition and its recent inspection reports.
Mr. Davis said new wooden guardrails were installed a couple of years ago on the 43-metre, three-span timber structure.
RCMP Const. Rob Morin of Antigonish Traffic Services said earlier this week that high winds and blowing snow would have been contributing factors in the crash.
Canso Coun. Fin Armsworthy is demanding that Transportation Minister Angus MacIsaac launch an inquiry to look into the accident and the safety of the bridge.
Mr. Armsworthy operates a family-owned shuttle service and makes the 260-kilometre round trip between his home and Antigonish every day.
There are four or five bridges between Canso and Guysborough, he said, and the only one that does not have a metal guardrail is the one in Halfway Cove.
"Just having a wooden structure there, it’s like having a picket fence," he said.
The concerns are valid, said Guysborough Coun. Blair George, who not only represents the area where the crash occurred but is also an employee of the department.
Mr. George said he met with Transportation Department officials Monday, but he stressed it was as a concerned citizen because council had not directed him to act as an elected representative on the matter.
"It’s my personal opinion, of course, that bridge wasn’t brought up to the same standard as all of the other bridges when they do upgrades to sections of highway," Mr. George said.
Guysborough council meets with the department every four months to discuss highway and road conditions. Mr. George said he hopes the two parties can meet at an earlier date in light of the tragedy.