Update: Fatal Hwy. 401 explosion investigation continues in Pickering, road closed through rush hour

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Published June 21, 2023 at 3:10 pm

The investigation into the explosion on Hwy. 401 in Pickering which claimed two lives last night is still underway. The road remains closed while police and clean-up crews continue their work.

Around 10:30 p.m. June 20, a tanker truck carrying two trailers full of fuel made its way east on Hwy. 401 when the driver lost control near Brock Rd. The truck swerved into the concrete centre median and rolled over into oncoming westbound traffic.

The tanks ruptured during the rollover spilling fuel across the roadway. It then caught fire and exploded, killing the driver. At the same time, a passenger vehicle and another transport were driving west and caught fire as a result of the crash.

Two people were in the passenger car, but were able to stop and escape. However, the other trucker was also killed in the blaze. Neither of the men killed have been identified as yet.

@tourviabsb

Footage Of Collision That Led To An Explosion On Hwy401 @ BrockRd In Pickering 🙏 #ontario #collision #prayers #accident #pickering #canada🇨🇦

♬ original sound – TourViaBsb

OPP Media Officer Kerry Schmidt described the explosion as a “massive fireball.” Residents reported on social media they could see the blaze from kilometres around with some reporting a view from as far as the Oshawa Centre. Nearby residents felt the explosion’s shockwave rip through their homes from across town.

The blaze raged for hours while the fire burned the fuel and giant cloud of smoke billowed off the fire, prompting a warning for locals to close their wondows and doors from the OPP.

@dineintoronto

A multi-vehicle collision has claimed two lives and sparked a massive fireball on Highway 401, at Brock Road in Pickering, east of Toronto. #pickeringontario #caraccident #401accident #highway401 #pickering #carcollision

♬ original sound – DineinToronto🥂

First responders soon flooded the scene including Pickering and Toronto fire departments, the OPP, Durham Regional Police and Durham Paramedics. However even with the two resources of two fire services, the fire took hours to extinguish.

In a video update at 1:30 a.m. Schmidt said firefighters still had one truck to put out, but were waiting for it to burn through more of the fuel before knocking it down. They estimated it would take another hour to put out. By this time, one person had been confirmed dead, buyt first responders had been unable to approach the still burning truck and expected more.

Even in the immeidate aftermath police said they expected the road to remain closed well into June 21. Twelve hours later and Schmidt released another update. Hwy. 401 remains closed for the rest of the afternoon while the OPP Collision Reconstruction Unit and the Coroner’s Office continue to investigate. They’re working hard “to deliver the answers the next of kin and family so desperately need,” Schmidt said.

He noted there were “still significant traffic issues” in the area. I want to advise anyone who’s hoping to travel through this area this afternoon that we are still wait for on the assessment from the Ministry of Transportation.” The Ministry has to examine the bridge, the road, the lights and the infrastructure to make sure it’s still safe to travel through.

The highway is closed for a more than 7 kilometre stretch from Whites Rd. in Pickering to Westney Rd. in Ajax.

The charred bridge is visible in Schmidt’s video over his shoulder and above a forklift working to clean up the scene. “You can see the bridge scorched black by the fire that lasted several hours.” he said

“Avoid this area through the afternoon,” Schmidt concluded. “Traffic is very heavy. Find an alternate route.”

 

 

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