Fourteen people were taken to hospital after a large multi-vehicle collision on Highway 14 east of Range Road 232 in Strathcona County Friday morning.
The crash involved 34 vehicles, including four semi-trucks, RCMP said. It happened just after 6 a.m.
A woman in her 30s was flown to the University of Alberta Hospital by STARS in critical condition, a spokesperson from STARS said.
According to Alberta Health Services, another woman was transported by EMS to hospital in critical condition. An additional seven men and five women were taken by ground ambulance to hospital in stable condition, AHS said.
RCMP said heavy smoke and fog resulted in multiple collisions on both Highway 21 and Highway 14.
“Visibility in the area is extremely poor due to heavy smoke from the wildfires combined with moisture in the air,” RCMP said in a 6:45 a.m. news release.
It was clear from the Global 1 helicopter that at least a dozen vehicles, including several large transport trucks, were involved in the Highway 14 pileup.
Chester Mooney and his colleague Kevin Gillespie were on their daily morning commute when they exited Highway 21 and turned west onto Highway 14.
“It was just a river of smoke and fog. It was so thick we couldn’t see beyond the front of the truck,” Mooney recalled.
“We were slowing down to try and match the tail lights in front of us and as we slowed down, one vehicle piled into the back of us and then … one backed into them. It was just: ‘crunch, crunch.’ We could hear all the vehicles piling up.
“It was remarkable how thick it was and how much you could not see.”
Gillespie remembers the sound vividly.
“We got plowed from behind, a very loud crash followed by another one. Two vehicles actually rear-ended us. The three vehicles are just basically welded together and smashed up.
“Behind us, as we sat, we could hear other vehicles in the distance. It was just a horrific sound because we knew there were bigger trucks.”
“Where do you go?” Gillespie asked. “Should you pull over? Because some people did that. Some people pulled off. We talked to one who did. He swerved off into the ditch and someone T-boned him in the ditch. Where’s the safe place to go?”
Mooney said emergency crews arrived quickly.
“We walked away, grateful enough. And as the smoke cleared and lifted, we got to see a lot of everything that did take place. There was somewhere in the region of 20-30 vehicles all piled up. It was definitely a big mess, to say the least.”
“I counted roughly 25 vehicles but there were a few in the ditch,” Gillespie said. “But with the smoke it was hard to see.
“It looked like a war zone. There were vehicles in the ditch, all over the road. There’s pieces of vehicles all over the place, bumpers, glass.”
As of 1 p.m., RCMP said all lanes (east and westbound) of Highway 14 between Range Road 232 and Highway 21 were open again.
Ten vehicles involved in the collision remain on scene and are being removed.
Sherwood Park RCMP said another multi-vehicle crash on Highway 21 at Township Road 520 at 6 a.m. involved 12 different vehicles.
Two drivers were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and the other drivers were taken by the county bus to Millennium Place in Strathcona County.
“The cause of the collision is believed to be because of low visibility due to the wildfire smoke and fog,” RCMP said in a news release.
Highway 21 was reopened to traffic as of 11:30 a.m.
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