Windsor, ON 60 Car Pile-up On Route 401, Sep 1999
HIGHWAY CRASH KILLS SEVEN IN CANADA.
Windsor, Ontario (AP) - More than 60 cars and trucks slammed into each other in a thick fog Friday morning on a busy Canadian highway near Detroit. At least seven people were killed and 45 were injured, authorities said.
The multiple pile-ups along Highway 401 - Canada's
national highway - flipped tractor-trailers, sent cars plunging into ditches and ignited infernos from toppled tankers. Survivors heard other motorists screaming for help but were not able to rescue everyone.
All of those killed had been trapped in flames, said Tim Berthiaume, a Windsor fire department spokesman.
The death toll "could certainly go higher but we won't know until we get into the vehicles and pull out the victims," provincial police Staff-Sgt. Doug Babbitt told a news conference.
A thick fog had obscured visibility along Highway 401 near Windsor, a city in Ontario located across the Detroit River from Detroit. Known for its high number of fatal car crashes, Highway 401 at Windsor is also the busiest U.S.-Canadian border crossing.
The accidents, which occurred shortly after 8 a.m. just east of Windsor's city limits, involved 62 vehicles on a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 60 m.p.h., the Ontario Provincial Police said.
Joe Marton, returning home to Burlington, Ont., from a business trip to Windsor, was one of the first to stop his vehicle safely behind the chaos.
"People were standing on the side of the road waving and shouting, 'Get off! Get off!'" he said.
"We ran into the field and then we heard the crashes - bang, bang, bang, at least 30 crashes, we were counting them - for about five minutes."
"Then there was silence and then the screaming; the worst thing I've ever heard," he said.
Fourteen cars and five tractor-trailers were involved in one large collision that was engulfed by fire, police said.
Conrad Maurier of the Windsor Ambulance Dispatch Center said emergency vehicles had trouble finding the accident because of the fog.
"It wasn't until the fog cleared that we realized we were dealing with something three or four miles long," Maurier said.
Forty-five people were taken to area hospitals. Police sped emergency blood supplies along back roads from the city of London and closed a 21-mile stretch of the freeway in both directions. It was not expected to open until this morning.
Dave Phillips, who lives near the highway, heard a loud bang and rushed to the scene. He and 15 other people, mostly from vehicles involved in the crashes, lifted a car off one woman, and tried unsuccessfully to free another woman trapped between two burning vehicles.
"We could hear her screaming but we couldn't get to her," he said. "The fire just got too hot."
One man, who was wandering barefoot in a cornfield, said he got out of his car but his brother did not make it. He did not give his name.
Firefighters pumped water out of a pond to battle the flames, but they did not extinguish the fires until the afternoon.
Uninjured survivors recuperated in air-conditioned buses near the accident site.
It was not immediately known how the accident started, but authorities suspected it involved both speeding and poor visibility.
The Canadian Automobile Association had recently said that Highway 401 would be more forgiving of human error if it were widened from four to six lanes at this point.
The Courier-News Bridgewater New Jersey 1999-09-04
Listing of the Casualties
ROBERT LAFORME, 35, of Hamilton.
ELEANOR SHOGNOSH, 70, Walpole Island.
RANDY SPOTTON, 25, Chatham.
CHARLES McLAMORE, 40, Rochester, N.Y.
MARK McLAMORE, 15, Rochester, N.Y.
MARCEYA McLAMORE, 14, Rochester, N.Y.
WADE BROWN, 40, Belle River.
ANNE MARIE STRNISA, 24, LaSalle.