Massive pileup closes Highway 401 at Woodstock

A multi-vehicle crash has closed the eastbound lanes of the 401 at Woodstock. (QMI Agency)

A multi-vehicle crash has closed the eastbound lanes of the 401 at Woodstock. (QMI Agency)

Randy Richmond, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

A sudden whiteout on a busy highway led to a pileup of nearly 50 vehicles on Hwy. 401 Friday.

As the tanker truck behind them kept coming, driver Lorraine Gauthier kept screaming, "Don't hit us, don't hit us!"

The truck hit and Gauthier's car spun, and though the car came to a stop, the fear did not. Everywhere vehicles were hitting each other.

"You could hear it, them all banging. You don't know whether to get out and run or just stay in the vehicle and wait."

When the truck in front of her started jackknifing and she slowed down, Marcie Vandenboom knew trouble was coming.

"I could feel the tension behind me. The truck came from behind on my left, very fast and pushed us, pushed us, pushed us . . . I was scared. I didn't know if we were going to make it because it was just jumble, loud noises around us."

Dozens of other people had similar tales of sudden terror and for many, great relief as about 50 vehicles piled into each other when whiteouts hit a section of the eastbound lanes of Hwy. 401 near Woodstock, Ont., just before noon Friday.

"The good part is no serious injuries were reported," Western Region OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said.

But the pileup forced OPP to close all eastbound lanes at Foldens Line until Friday evening, causing a 10-kilometre backup for thousands of drivers on Canada's busiest highway.

"We had winter weather conditions, people not adjusting their speed appropriately and we ended up with a 50-car collision involving a mix of transports," Rektor said. "It's another example of people not adjusting to winter weather condition."

But drivers stranded on the highway said the weather turned from tolerable to horrible in an instant.

"It all of a sudden just went from almost clear to complete whiteout," said Cambridge resident Richard Johnstone, stuck in his car after pulling a trailer after a camping trip in Florida.

"It was a big whiteout and I just managed to stop. A couple of guys behind didn't manage so somebody rear ended the trailer but the damage is minor."

Though some drivers chose to remain in their vehicles during the cleanup, others made their way through the maze of wrecks, bits of metal and snow to a bus taking the stranded to a Woodstock rest stop.

randy.richmond@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos