Monday was supposed to be a day off for Simon Knight, but the Corner Brook firefighter sprang into action when he came upon a messy accident scene on the Trans-Canada Highway.
The assistant deputy fire chief with the Corner Brook Fire Department was travelling to Grand Falls-Windsor with his wife, Joan, when a 15-vehicle pileup happened just ahead of them near the Birchy Narrows bridge.
The Knights were able to drive their vehicle to the other side of the collided vehicles, which included three transport trucks. Once on the other side, Simon got out and went back towards the scene to see what he could do to help.
He said, by that time, there were other off-duty emergency responders and members of the general public also out of their vehicles and checking on the crash victims.
He said he wasn’t too worried about being dangerously exposed in the blinding snow conditions that caused the havoc to start with because the accident scene was sort of sheltered from any more vehicles from entering.
“It was bad, but the only vehicles that were getting in there were the emergency response vehicles coming in to help,” he said.
Until those on-duty professionals arrived, Knight said all that could be done was go from one vehicle to the next to make sure everyone was OK or at least comfortable.
“We did what we could, but there were people in two vehicles we couldn’t get to because they needed to be extricated,” he said.
Six people were taken by ambulance to hospital. According to the RCMP, two of those people had serious injuries and the other four had injuries not considered life-threatening.
The accident happened just before 10:30 a.m. on a stretch of highway located between two large lakes that is notorious for white-out conditions blowing off of the frozen-over water.
Knight said he was at the scene for a couple of hours before he and his wife continued their trip.
The highway was closed until mid-afternoon when the scene was cleared enough for one lane to open up. The windy conditions, with zero visibility at times, persisted throughout the day.
Fire departments from Deer Lake, Hampden and Springdale all responded to the scene, as well as the RCMP and eight ambulances from across the region.