Ontario Provincial Police say an inattentive truck driver may be responsible for a fiery multi-vehicle collision on Highway 400 that killed a five-year-old girl and three others in Toronto Friday night.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the child was one of three occupants traveling inside a vehicle involved in the crash that occurred around 9:45 p.m. on the southbound lanes of Highway 400 just south of Finch Avenue.
“I don’t think that I’ve been to a collision scene that was this devastating — the vehicles were crumpled up, were smashed beyond recognition, the fire consumed them as well,” Schmidt said.
“Four people lost their lives. I’ve been to many collisions involving fatalities, involving transport trucks and multiple vehicles, but this collision was particularly hard to deal with.”
Police said the two other occupants of the vehicle in which the child died were all female family members.
A fourth person in a separate vehicle also died in the crash. Their gender and identity have not been released.
Schmidt said police have spoken to family members of the deceased and autopsies are being conducted Monday by the Chief Coroner for Ontario.
Police said they are concentrating their investigation on a transport truck that may have caused the collision involving a total of 11 vehicles.
Schmidt said that while traffic was slowing down in one of the lanes, the truck did not adjust its speed and set off the chain of events that led to the “horrible tragedy.”
WATCH: 4 dead in Highway 400 crash
“Completely preventable as far as I’m concerned and really we just want to get that message out to truck drivers and all drivers that you have to focus on the road, you’ve got to look what’s coming up down the road,” he said.
“The lanes on the left and right, they may be moving at full speed, but if there’s one lane that’s slowing down and that’s the one you’re in — you have to address your driving and we’re really just calling on truck drivers as well, if you’re involved in a collision like this it’s something that you’re going to be held accountable for.”
“It only takes a moment for something to happen and some of the attention to be diverted away from their task of looking forward and seeing how traffic is changing and that’s when things like this happen.”
The crash stopped traffic for several hours in both directions Friday evening and investigators were on scene for 14 hours. Many of the vehicles had to be turned around and rerouted in the area.
“The importance of paying attention to what we’re doing at all times is unbelievable. We’re pulling 80,000 pounds down the road — the minute we take our eyes off the road, we’re off what we’re doing or for whatever reason we fall asleep while we’re behind the wheel — disastrous things happen,” said Rob Jackson, a senior driver trainer at Humber College.
“The truck driver has a responsibility to drive the truck at the proper following distance knowing he takes a lot longer to stop than any other vehicle on our roads.”
With files from Mark Carcasole