Emergency crews responded Wednesday morning to a serious multi-vehicle collision on Highway 2, north of Grande Prairie in northwestern Alberta.
RCMP originally said about 20 vehicles were involved in the pileup on the southbound lanes of Highway 2. That number was actually confirmed to be 16 in a release issued just before 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon.
The collision happened between the communities of Clairmont and Sexsmith, north of Emerson Trail/Highway 672/Township Road 732 just after 9:30 a.m.
“As I came cruising along, I saw a bunch of guys in the ditch waving everybody down,” said Pancho Driedger, who is a grain delivery driver in Grande Prairie. “Luckily I was able to stop in time.
“A woman who held her daughter on her lap was bleeding real bad. It was minus 16 when it happened so I went and put my jacket over her to keep her warm and continue to assist as much as I could until the paramedics came. Pretty traumatizing for sure.”
Driedger said this was at about 10 a.m. He said it was very foggy.
“Zero visibility actually from at least 30 yards. I could see nothing at all. As I got nearer… I saw the pileup. The helicopter came around after a couple of minutes but couldn’t land.
“From where I was parked, I didn’t see anything actually, too much fog. But when I got closer, I saw just a big pile of vehicles right on the road and into the ditches and everywhere. I knew it was going to be pretty scary and traumatizing but I still felt the need to at least go and see what I could do.”
RCMP said a total of six people were transported by ambulance to hospital: five with serious injuries, and one 16-year-old girl in critical condition.
Grande Prairie RCMP, along with EMS and fire responded to the crash. STARS Air Ambulance also responded to the area.
RCMP initially said that STARS had transported the 16-year-old girl to hospital.
A spokesperson for STARS said its crew didn’t actually transport the teen, but instead went with a ground ambulance crew to provide care to the girl en route to hospital in Grande Prairie.
Her condition as originally considered critical but by the afternoon, she had been updated to stable.
Both the northbound and southbound lanes of Highway 2 were blocked and detours were established, however the highway re-opened to traffic shortly after 12:30 p.m. At that time, RCMP said emergency crews were no longer on scene.
According to Environment Canada, there was freezing fog and mist in the Grande Prairie area Wednesday morning and the temperature was in the minus mid-teens.
In the afternoon update, police said weather was considered a factor in the crash.
“At the time of the collision, there was thick, heavy fog which caused reduced visibility and icy roadways,” police said in the release. “Speed is also being investigated as a factor.”
Drivers were asked to avoid the area or reroute via Emerson Trail.
Police said the investigation was ongoing, but no charges had been laid as of Wednesday afternoon.
Grande Prairie is about 450 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
– With files from Kirby Bourne, 630 CHED
BELOW: Photos from the scene