|A multi-vehicle crash of up to 100 cars on Highway Q.E. 2 south of Leduc, Alta., On Thursday. (Photo Courtesy Derek Fildebrandt/Canadian Taxpayers Federation )
EDMONTON - While the cleanup continues a day after one of the largest snowfalls to hit the Edmonton area in decades, some are just happy to be alive.
"There was very few of us that walked away unscathed from that accident. It was horrific," said Mike Hogue, whose truck was one of the 100 vehicles piled across Hwy. 2 near Leduc, Alta., before noon Thursday.
"They were being gurneyed out and severely wounded, a lot of lacerations," Hogue said. "It was something I never want to experience again; the sights, the sounds - it was very grim."
Hogue recalled coming over a rise and realizing there was no way for many to avoid a collision. After being rear-ended by a minivan, he got out of his car only to see a cattle-hauler beginning to jackknife on the hill.
"There were people screaming and running away from the two semis which were still in motion. Then I looked up the highway and thatís when the Greyhound bus came over the hill. He jammed on the binders and went right sideways. I thought he was going to flop it. It was just surreal," he said, adding if one of the trucks didnít go into the ditch, he would not have come out uninjured.
Medical personnel from Edmonton to Wetaskiwin prepared for the worst.
As potential patient numbers rose to 300, a code orange was called to let medical staff across the province know what to be ready for.
"You start to plan for that kind of inflow immediately," Marianne Stewart, acting senior vice-president of Alberta Health Services for the region, said.
Because of the conditions, she said a Greyhound bus loaded with Emergency Medical Services staff and gear was the safest and most efficient way to deal with a large number of people.
"Itís a place where you can have your equipment, itís dry, itís warm and people can be brought through in an efficient and effective manner," explained Stewart.
Drivers said the emergency response was impressive.
"They were fantastic. They mobilized in a hurry and when they started showing up on scene they were all over the place looking after the wounded," said Hogue. "They just materialized out of nowhere. It was unreal."
About 100 people were assessed with 57 taken to reception areas in Wetaskiwin and Leduc to warm up and wait for rides home. Another 22 were taken to hospital for more serious injuries.
"Itís just an absolute miracle that nobody was killed," Hogue said.
The most seriously injured was a man who was out of his vehicle and could not avoid a semi that skidded across the road after coming over a crest. He was rescued from under the semi and transported to University hospital in Edmonton where he remains in serious but stable condition.