COOKSTOWN, Ont. — At least two people have died in a 14-vehicle pileup that sent a wave of flames down a highway north of Toronto, prompting motorists to run for their lives, Ontario Provincial Police said Wednesday.
Police said the number of fatalities may rise as they reach more vehicles involved in the fiery crash on Highway 400 south of Barrie, Ont.
“There are cars everywhere, twisted transport trucks, destroyed vehicles, metal that is unrecognizable as to whether or not it is a vehicle at all or not. And that’s why we’re still looking to determine any other victims that may be inside the vehicles, which we haven’t been able to ascertain at this point,” OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told reporters at the scene.
“It really is the most unbelievable scene I think I’ve ever seen.”
Schmidt said there’s going to be a lot of work to pull the victims out of the damaged vehicles.
Two fuel tanker trucks and at least three transport trucks collided just before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, setting off a devastating chain reaction, he said.
“As the fuel was flowing out of the trailers, which (were) split wide open, the fire was rolling down the highway and that’s why we initially actually closed the highway up at Highway 9,” he said.
“People were running for their lives to not be encompassed by the moving fire that was on the highway,” he said.
Firefighters let the fuel burn itself out before tackling any remaining hot spots and are still at the scene, Schmidt said.
Police said all lanes of the highway are closed between Country Road 88 and Highway 89 and are expected to remain closed all day Wednesday.
Video footage of the scene posted on social media shows towering flames and the sound of explosions can he heard.
The cause of the collision is still under investigation, but Schmidt says initial inspections indicate that a transport truck may have collided into slowing traffic.
“The sky was clear, it was dark, obviously, at the time…no issues on the road surface for visibility,” Schmidt said, adding they will be looking at possible mechanical issues with the truck as well as any possible human factors.
That stretch of the highway has been under construction for months.
— By Paola Loriggio in Toronto
The Canadian Press