VIDEO: Remembering 87-Vehicle Pileup on 401 20 Years Later


Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of one of the worst crashes ever on Highway 401.

It was September 3, 1999 that 87-vehicles collided in heavy fog on the 401 between Windsor and Tilbury, killing eight people and injuring 45.

The tragic accident took place east of Manning Road after a truck braked in the westbound lanes and caused another tractor-trailer to jack-knife, setting off a chain-reaction crash in the dense fog.

Former Windsor Fire Chief, Dave Fields says he'll never forget that morning.

He says Bob Tapak was the fire chief in Lakeshore at the time and called him saying 'I'm in the middle of hell, send me everything you've got."

In those days, Fields says most people were told to stay in their vehicle if they got into a crash.

"I think the people who survived all got out of their vehicles and got away from them, not stay in them. Because the crash just kept bang, bang, bang after. I think we had a mile and a half of wreckage."

Fields says he won't forget how emergency service workers came together at the scene.

"The intensity of the fires and the people still trapped, I've never seen emergency services, so much crying going on. They were just so emotional, it didn't stop them from doing what they had to do but it was just wrecking their hearts."

Janice Dawson, the current CEO of Erie Shores Healthcare, was working as a nurse in the emergency room at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital that day.

She told AM800's The Morning Drive that the emergency room was empty that morning.

"That was not a normal scene in the emergency department in those days. It was almost like there was something working, saying, yeah we're going to get you guys ready for these victims to come in."

Dawson says when the staff got the information about the crash, they all just looked at each other.

"We had that moment, just that moment of silence of 'what do we do now?' She remembers.  "But then it was the instincts, the training and the abilities and capabilities all kicked in and we were able to start receiving those patients and take care of them."   

Dawson says as a result of the crash, they learned so much about the mental impact a crash can have on frontline workers.