Capt. Ray Gosse of the Whitbourne Volunteer Fire Department was visibly shaken after spending nearly three hours Tuesday at a fatal accident scene on the section of Trans-Canada Highway that runs through the town.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Gosse told reporters shortly after 2 p.m.
Gosse chose his words carefully as he attempted to describe what greeted him and five other members of the brigade as they arrived at the accident scene, noting the driver was “obviously deceased.”
With assistance from RCMP officers and medical personnel, all of whom are paid and highly trained, Gosse and his fellow volunteers were given the unpleasant task of removing the body of the motorist from the mangled remains of a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) that had veered over the yellow line and collided with a commercial tractor-trailer just before 11:30 a.m.
The firefighters used extrication equipment to remove the victim, who police say is not from the province.
It was the worst accident scene Gosse has responded to in his three years as a volunteer firefighter, and he had high praise for the efforts of those at his side.
“It was my first fatality scene, but we just tried to do our best,” said Gosse.
He described the brigade as “very, very capable and qualified,” a department that practices regularly for such emergencies, since it is located close to the Trans-Canada Highway.
RCMP Sgt. Randy Pack said his initial investigation leads him to believe the smaller vehicle veered into the path of the commercial truck. The driver of the larger vehicle was not hurt in the collision.
The tragedy occurred on a busy section of the TCH, just west of the visitor information centre. The speed limit along that stretch is reduced to 70 km/h.
Pack said driving conditions were ideal at the time, and an investigation into the cause is ongoing. He could not say whether speed was a factor.
The highway was closed for almost three hours, with traffic backed up for long distances on both sides of the accident scene.
Pack said everyone involved in the response will have access to “critical incident stress responders.”