Wayne Atkinson stands beside a memorial cross erected in memory of his common-law wife Sandy Dempsey.

Wayne Atkinson stands beside a memorial cross erected in memory of his common-law wife Sandy Dempsey.

Streetlights add safety at tragic crossing

Youbou Highway: Lights added at Beaver Road, as well as Neva Road, where two died last summer

Nick Bekolay

Lake Cowichan Gazette


Lake Cowichan resident Wayne Atkinson welcomed the news that Ministry of Transportation crews will be installing overhead lighting at a pair Youbou Road crossings in recent weeks.

New lights will be erected above crosswalks at Beaver Road and at Neva Road where Atkinson’s common-law wife, Sandra Dempsey, died last summer.

Dempsey, 48, was crossing Youbou Road on the night of Aug. 4, 2012, with a neighbour’s dog in tow when she was struck and killed by a motorcycle driven by Arthur Barnard.

Barnard, 60, also died in the accident, but his passenger — an unidentified 49-year-old woman — survived.

Atkinson referred to the new lights as “the one good thing to come out of a bad tragedy.”

“The (Neva Road) crosswalk was unmarked and it wasn’t painted,” Atkinson explained. “I kept on complaining to the Ministry and finally something’s getting done. That makes it a little bit safer for everybody. Unfortunately, two people had to die in order to get this done, but it’s getting done now.”

Atkinson said the new lights will be “absolutely” welcome, especially now that summer’s giving way to fall, bringing with it the damp, dark days of winter. He’s narrowly escaped being hit on more than one occasion, he said, and he’s witnessed dozens of close calls on this section of road in the last year alone.

“I’ve almost been run over once or twice,” Atkinson added. “My girlfriend, she’s almost been hit once or twice, and my roommate, too. It’s a welcome change, for sure. A lot of people use both crosswalks and the lighting was very poor. It’s getting dark now and the rain’s coming, so it’s a whole lot better with lights up. Plus a lot of kids use it coming back and forth from school.”

Weather permitting, the new lights were to be installed and operational by the first week of September, wrote MoT representative Kate Trotter.

This “safety enhancement project” cost the MoT $42,000, an investment proven to be “effective in reducing nighttime crashes,” Trotter explained.

Trotter made no specific mention of the deaths of Dempsey and Barnard when outlining the MoT’s motives for installing the lights, stating instead that “the safety of the travelling public is always a top priority for the ministry.”

“The ministry has an ongoing practice of reviewing intersection safety and undertakes upgrades as required to ensure continued safety of road users,” Trotter added.