The "401 Fog" Pileup ~ Canada


Let It All Bleed Out
This one is not New News...the event happened back on Sept. 3, 1999 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. But there was no else to post it and it's one that I have some personal attachment to.


401 Pileup Disaster

Last Updated: Friday, September 3, 1999 | 5:37 PM ET CBC News

A bank of fog, drivers going too fast, and a stretch of highway that's the busiest in North America. These factors contributed to a horrific crash on highway 401 near Windsor just after 8:00 AM.
Seven people are confirmed dead, 62 injured. It's considered among the worst highway accidents in Canadian history. Emergency officials continue to sift through the smouldering wreckage, trying to determine if there are more victims.

Eyewitnesses described it as a nightmare. Injured screaming people were everywhere, some trapped in demolished burning vehicles. Dozens of injured were transported to area hospitals, some in critical condition.

The accident is tragic, but some believe it was entirely predictable.

There is increasing pressure on the government to spend more money to make the roads safer. More than a dozen people have been killed on a stretch of 401 near Chatham in the past six months alone.

Today's crash was a little further west, but many of the same problems persist. The shoulders of the highway are soft and narrow, and the flat terrain can cause driver boredom.

The government has just received a report from safety specialists, proposing major investments in the highway.

Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty says its time to spend the money, but Transportation Minister David Turnbull isn't prepared to talk about the government's long term plans yet.

The highway just east of Windsor will remain closed until tomorrow morning.


Set 1.



Let It All Bleed Out
Reliving the horror of the 401 fog

Published On Sun Aug 30 2009

"The morning sky was clear blue, but patches of fog lingered.

Ute Lawrence and her husband cruised along the 401 from their home in London, toward Windsor, their silver Mercedes coupe slicing through bouts of fog scattered along the four-lane highway.

They passed cars, vans, and trucks carrying other mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

"Suddenly we entered this wall of fog that so thick that we couldn't see a thing," Lawrence says.

"Then all hell broke loose."

The McLamore family was on the road that day, too.

Marceya McLamore, 14, and her brother Mark, 15, from Rochester, were travelling with their father and his girlfriend. In a Buick LeSabre, rolling west on the 401, they disappeared into the cloud.

Only one would survive.

There was no fog in the forecast for Essex County on Friday, Sept. 3, 1999.

A malfunction at the Windsor Airport Observation Station with the dew cell, used to detect whether vapour is likely to stay in the air and create fog, was not uncovered until later.

Earlier in the morning, the OPP had responded to an accident related to fog. No warnings were issued.

Drivers navigated through small puffs of cloud, not knowing the largest pileup in Canadian history was about to swallow them.

Kirk Walstedt heard the squealing tires and smashing metal from his farmhouse. He heard the screams.

He raced in his pickup across the field to the highway, which was covered in a dark cloud, swallowing the cars and trucks still driving into it.

"You could hear what was going on, but you couldn't see anything," he says. "It was like walking through a door into a room."

Walstedt stepped inside.

Cory McCrindle was dropping his son off at preschool, when his cellphone rang. It was the CBC; he was the morning reporter.

"There's been an accident."

He cut through kilometres of grey fog on the 401 as it drifted west, away from the carnage it created.

"I've got to get to this story, whatever it is, " he remembers thinking.

"I grabbed the video camera, and rolled it."

Ute Lawrence and her husband, Stan Fisher, were trapped inside their crushed sports car, a van on top of them and a transport truck leaning beside. Vehicles kept piling in from behind.

"They were like angry waves," she says. "With each jolt we thought that was the one that would kill us."

Then Lawrence heard banging on their roof, and a girl's piercing scream. "Help me! Get me out of here!" – Marceya McLamore pleaded for her life.

Her brother and father were already dead. Her father's girlfriend, Sheila Gayle, survived with a broken back and fractured left leg.

Marceya escaped the car, but in the madness of the growing inferno, she was pinned between the sports car and a van.

"I'm only 14," she cried.

Walstedt remembers her. There with his brother, Scott, they pulled people to safety and tried to put out fires. About a dozen people stepped through the fog with them.

"We helped as many as we could," he says. In the face of blazing fire and explosions, they managed to rescue at least a dozen people.

"There was a young girl we couldn't get out," Walstedt says, softly. "She was crying for us to get her out, and we couldn't."

It was Marceya's dying cries that led an unknown man to Lawrence and Fisher.

"I know that this little girl saved our lives," Lawrence says.

The young man smashed in their windshield, wedged up the roof, freeing Fisher and Lawrence. Flames enveloped them. Then, trying to save Marceya, he lifted and lifted and lifted – "until his face got burned," Lawrence says.

There was nothing they could do.

McCrindle watched the carnage through the viewfinder of his camera. "It put a distance between me and what was going on," he says. As explosions blasted around like a battlefield, he filmed the fire that killed Marceya. "This is what I have to do," he thought.

A passing man, pale and shaking, told the camera he had tried to save the girl, but couldn't.

"There was, for better or worse, a story to be told. There were people's lives that were lost," McCrindle says. "It was a story that people needed to know."

Later, when the fog lifted, charred wreckage was scattered across a two-kilometre stretch of the 401, near Manning Rd., just east of Windsor.

People had fled the mist into the nearby fields. Some just ran, as far from hell as they could. More than 40 were injured; seven died at the scene and another later in hospital.

The 87 vehicles involved were a mass of crumpled metal.

In the months that followed, Lawrence went numb inside.

"I remember feeling very guilty that I survived, and she didn't," she says. "Here we are, a middle-aged couple, and here's a little 14-year-old girl. ... she was engulfed in flames, screaming `I'm only 14.'"

Lawrence and Fisher, scarred by the events, had to drink themselves to sleep for months. She couldn't leave that day behind; a few years ago, Lawrence was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She wrote a book about her experience, called The Power of Trauma, and speaks widely about emotional recovery. She knows stories of the people who haven't been able to pull themselves out of the greyness, suffering failed relationships, alcoholism and depression.

"Each and every one of them in that hot-zone area, I know, has suffered unbelievably," she says.

Last year Lawrence and her husband drove back along the 401 to Windsor for the first time. She hasn't returned since.

The deadly fog haunts Walstedt, too.

When the Essex County lawyer watches action movies, or hears loud, sudden noises, he's taken back to that horrific day.

A cross memorial sits on his property, near the highway, placed by the family of one the victims.

His voice breaks as he remembers.

"It's been 10 years, but when you get talking about it you still get as emotional as you did that day."

McCrindle's images were transported into our living rooms. We witnessed hell through his viewfinder.

"I'd never seen that kind of carnage," he says.

He described the scene like a battlefield: "With bombs going off – everything was laid waste."

Days later, the gravity of the crash finally hit him. "Sept. 3 is my Sept. 11 in some ways," he says. "How can you forget it?"

The crash took the lives of eight people: Marceya McLamore, Mark McLamore, Charles McLamore Jr., Eleanor Shognosh, Bob LaForme, Randy Spotton, Wade Brown, and Anne Marie Strnisa.

It was Friday, Sept. 3, 1999. A clear, blue-sky morning - but patches of fog linger, still."


Set 2.



Let It All Bleed Out
It's amazing that more weren't killed in this pile up and resulting inferno. But one of those that were killed was one of my closest riding buddies. I've been in a few MC's (motorcycle clubs) and I had brought Bobby in as a prospect to my first club. He soon reached full patch, was an awesome brother and member and we frequently rode together in the pack even though I was supposed to be riding up front with the other club execs. Many times we'd just call eachother, meet up and go blasting around town for a few hours.

He left behind a wife and 2 twin boys.

In the 1st pic of this set, you can see an arrow pointing to a mess of melted metal: that was all that left of his truck. The police report stated that he had died instantly after rear-ending another transport truck and becoming engulfed in flames almost immediately.

RIP Bro.

Set 3.