Poor visibility, speed blamed for 401 crash

WINDSOR, Ont. (Sept. 7, 1999) — Thick fog and aggressive driving are being blamed for the fiery 80-vehicle pile-up on Hwy. 401 near Windsor Friday morning, which killed seven people.

A team of Ontario Provincial Police officers are trying to reconstruct the crash, in which several cars and trucks were burned beyond recognition and wreckage was scattered across a two kilometre stretch of Canada’s busiest highway.

In one spot, which emergency crews called the “hot zone,” 14 cars and five tractor-trailers seemed fused together in a charred, almost unrecognizable mass. The highway itself was so badly damaged that it had to be repaved before it could be reopened.

Ontario Transportation Minister David Turnbull attributed the crash to poor visibility and excessive speed for the conditions. In statement, he thanked rescue workers and medical staff for reacting quickly.

“And I would like to acknowledge those motorists — many of whom found themselves in the midst of this accident — who courageously and selflessly worked to free the injured trapped in vehicles, often, I understand, under difficult and dangerous conditions,” he added.

The collisions occurred west of a 66-kilometre section of the 401 near Chatham where 13 people have died in 10 different accidents since March. Those accidents have prompted calls for improvements to the highway, including wider lanes and shoulders.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Chatham OPP ticketed five people for speeding along Hwy. 401, less than 50 kilometres from the accident scene. One officer alone clocked four people at speeds higher than 150 km/h and another driver going faster than 160 km/h, according to news reports.

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