Minutes after a black vehicle zoomed past him on Topsail Road in St. John’s Monday night, Les Menchinton came upon a chaotic and horrendous scene he won’t soon forget.
“It takes a lot to shake me, but it was pretty emotional,” the 37-year-old told The Telegram Tuesday. “It was just sad.”
At the traffic light intersection of Topsail Road and Hamlyn Road, a demolished black vehicle was overturned and jammed between two other damaged vehicles, while nearby a motorcycle lay toppled on the road. Debris and smashed glass were scattered across the streets. In all, six vehicles were involved.
Just a few feet away, a man lay motionless near the curb, while another man lay motionless in the middle of the intersection.
“There was so much commotion and there must’ve been hundreds of people there by that time,” said Menchinton, who wanted to tell officers what he saw minutes earlier. “One woman who was just a pedestrian by the Orange Store started directing traffic herself, there was just so much traffic.
“Everyone there just seemed to be in shock.”
When Menchinton first stopped and pulled into a nearby parking lot, he saw police officers arrive and rush to the aid of the men lying on the ground. He saw them use CPR to try to resuscitate them.
But it was too late. Menchinton said the bodies of the men were then covered by white blankets.
According to the RNC, the driver of a KIA Soul, a 25-year-old man from St. John’s, was pronounced deceased at the scene. The driver of another of the six vehicles involved, a 44-year-old man from St. John’s, also died at the scene. Sources told The Telegram he had been driving the motorcycle.
The investigation into the collision is ongoing.
Police say the crash happened about 8:15 p.m., 10 minutes after patrol officers had attempted to initiate a traffic safety stop with the driver of the KIA Soul while it was travelling east on Topsail Road, near McNamara Drive in Paradise. The driver refused to stop and continued travelling eastbound near Trails End Drive, at which point the officer halted efforts to stop the vehicle.
The RNC says its communications centre had received multiple calls related to the vehicle’s erratic driving.
- RNC attempted traffic stop of one of the vehicles involved in Monday's fatal multi-vehicle collision in St. John's
- UPDATE: Two dead in multi-vehicle crash in St. John's
Menchinton had been on his way home, driving past the Brookfield fire station on Topsail Road minutes previously, when he heard a revving engine sound.
“I looked in my rearview mirror and a black car was about 15 or 20 car lengths behind me, but I still heard it. He was coming fast. He flew by me then,” said Menchinton, who estimates the driver was travelling close to 200 km/h.
He said the vehicle was going so fast, it slid sideways, struck the sidewalk curb and almost lost control, causing one of the doors to open and shut quickly.
“I don’t think he even hit the brakes,” he said, noting the car was moving too fast for him to see who or how many people were inside. “With heavier traffic up ahead … I knew it wasn’t going to end (well). I knew if he didn’t stop, he was going to wreck.”
Less than 30 seconds later, when Menchinton stopped at a red light in front of Burger King, he looked ahead and, in the distance, saw smoke and dust in the air.
“As soon as I seen that, I knew it was him,” he said. “I knew it.”
St. John’s Regional Fire Department Platoon Chief Roger Hounsell told The Telegram there were about six firefighters from various stations at the scene, including Brookfield and west end stations.
“It was pretty traumatic,” he said. “It was a pretty intense crash site.”
“It was a pretty intense crash site.” — SJRFD Platoon Chief Roger Hounsell
Hounsell, who came from the central station, said he didn’t have a lot of details, having arrived about 10 minutes after the collision. He said the focus was securing scene safety at that point.
“By the time I was notified and got on scene, everything had calmed down,” he said. “Our boys were taking care of the vehicles and making sure batteries were disconnected.”
He said the site was cleared by about 2 a.m.
As for observations about what caused the crash, Hounsell said that’s something the RNC will determine.
The actions of police preceding the collision will be probed by a civilian-led police oversight agency.
Because an RNC officer was involved in an incident that eventually resulted in serious injury or death, RNC Chief Joe Boland has engaged the director of the Serious Incident Response Team of Newfoundland and Labrador (SIRT-NL) to conduct an independent investigation.
SIRT-NL director Mike King says he has asked the RCMP to conduct an independent investigation, with SIRT-NL oversight, into the actions of the RNC with regard to the fatal collision. An update will be provided following the conclusion of the investigation.
“As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” King said.
According to social media posts, several members of the motorcycle community are planning a memorial ride in the near future in honour of the motorcyclist killed in the crash.
Family members of the other man killed have also made posts on Facebook, asking the public to stop sharing a video that was taken at the crash scene.
“Please respect their feelings as this is hard enough,” a family member posted.
The video was taken by a bystander, who is not a member of the media.
Twitter: @TelyRosie | facebook.com/rosiemullaley