Dacre — There are some nasty hills in the area when a heavy, wet snow falls and one of them is known as Tooey’s Hill on Highway 41, about two km south of the Hwy. 41-132 intersection near Dacre.
After a snow fall of about 10 centimetres last Thursday night, a second storm that started early Friday afternoon dropped another 15 to 20 centimetres on the area.
By late Friday afternoon, driving conditions were treacherous and they remained that way until Saturday.
Provincial Police officers from the Killaloe, Renfrew and Upper Ottawa Valley detachments responded to several mishaps, the most serious one occurring on Tooey’s Hill shortly after 7 p.m.
An apt headline for the story could be something like Nightmare on Tooey’s Hill because, for many motorists, that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
A chain action of events resulted in the highway being closed for more than three hours and three people being transported to Renfrew Victoria Hospital, fortunately with just minor injuries. They were the occupants of a Jeep SUV that was the most heavily damaged vehicle, and they were indeed fortunate to escape with just minor injuries and a shakeup.
It all started when a southbound tractor trailer become stuck on the snow-covered hill. It was a mild night, the snow was heavy and it was sticky. Perfect for making a snowman, but lousy for traction, no matter the size of the vehicle.
The driver of a northbound tractor trailer managed to get his rig stopped before colliding with the rig that was stuck on the hill, but moments later, a northbound Jeep came upon the scene. While attempting to bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid colliding with the rear of the tractor trailer, the Jeep went out of control, struck the steel guiderail and then bounced back on the highway, striking the front wheel of the truck and damaging the axle. The Jeep then collided with an Emcon pick-up truck that was stopped at the scene. Emcon is the contractor for highway maintenance in this area.
Although the crash scene was in Renfrew OPP territory, the call came in as being in Killaloe’s area and so two Killaloe officers – Const. Melissa Ferguson and Sgt. Chris Purdie responded in separate vehicles. And although the crash was in Greater Madawaska Township, it was reported as being in Bonnechere Valley Township and firefighters from the Eganville Station responded and remained on scene for a few hours rather than having GM’s Griffith Station respond on a snow-covered and treacherous highway when they were already there.
A highway maintenance crew from the patrol yard at Dacre used a large front-end loader to bring sand and salt to the hill making it possible for a highway plow truck to scrape the snow and slush off the surface. That made it possible for the southbound rig to proceed back to southern Ontario. The transport with the damaged axle managed to limp the couple of kilometres to the nearby highway patrol yard where it was hooked on to a large wrecker and towed away for repairs.
The occupants of the Jeep were safely transported to Renfrew for observation at Victoria Hospital and police officers and firefighters were able to call it a night.
It was heart-warming to watch a couple of the younger firefighters provide comfort, care and compassion to the two children who were passengers in the Jeep. They were shook up and a bit frightened at the experience.
The main thing, however, is that everyone who was involved in the Nightmare on Tooey’s Hill last Friday night, all made it home safe. Vehicles can be repaired or replaced, but lives cannot.
When asked if he had any comments to share on the night, Sgt. Purdie responded with “maybe a polite reminder to be patient … vehicles started going before being told to do so while we were still trying to clean up the scene and snow from the roadway so the last northbound tractor trailer could get moving.
“At the end of the day, we just want to ensure everybody makes it home safely.”