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'People were literally running for their lives'

Massive fireball collision closes Highway 400 and leaves at least two dead

The OPP are investigating a multi-fatality, multi-vehicle collision on Highway 400 that sent a massive fireball and numerous explosions into the sky.

The chain reaction crash occurred around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday on the northbound 400 between Highway 88 and 89.

The collision involved approximately 14 vehicles including 3 transport trucks and 2 fully loaded fuel tankers, OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told reporters near the scene.

The tankers ruptured, causing a massive fireball and numerous explosions. 

"It is devastating beyond description," said Schmidt. 

"I have never seen a collision scene with this magnitude. It is almost Armaggedon. There are cars, twisted metal, debris everywhere. I have never seen anything like this. Multiple transport trucks, multiple vehicles and sadly multiple fatalities," said the veteran officer.

"It was massive. People were seriously and literally running for their lives," he said. 

Schmidt said there were 'more than two' fatalities and several people were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 

The deceased have not been identified and officers, including the canine unit, are combing the scene around the crash to see if any other victims.

Investigators are better able to assess the scene in daylight but Schmidt said the force of the blast sent vehicles everywhere.

"These vehicles have been bounced all across the highway, into the ditch. Vehicles ripped in half and crumpled up into twisted metal."

About 40 minutes before the fiery collision,  Schmidt said there was another three-vehicle crash about a 1 km north of the fire scene..

Police and firefighters were at that collision and Schmidt says some lanes were blocked but traffic was getting through.

"It would appear that it was a transport truck that came in and launched this chain reaction collision. In this situation there was a slowdown, there was traffic queuing because of lane restrictions due to the collision," said Schmidt.

"The last vehicle in the line appears to have smashed through all these vehicles and set off a chain reaction fireball explosions with multiple fatalities."

One tanker on fire was a double tanker. Schmidt says thousands of litres of fuel were burnt and more spilled onto the highway and surrounding area.

The crash and fire prompted response from County of Simcoe Paramedics, the OPP, South Simcoe Police and Mutual Aid response from every fire department in the area.

There were over 20 fire trucks from 8 fire departments from Simcoe County and York Region - Bradford West Gwillimbury, Barrie, Essa, Innisfil, Adjala-Tosorontio, New Tecumseth, Vaughan and King.

"A massive amount of fireballs, explosions that were happening in the overnight hours," said Schmidt, adding it took more than two hours for the blaze to burn itself out. 

Highway 400 is closed for most of the day both north and southbound. In addition to processing the large scene, there will be damage to the road surface due to the fire. 

"Right now the 400 is off limits. No traffic will be getting by anywhere, northbound or southbound. You're going to want to get off as early as you can. All the secondary roads will be very heavy. Stay far away from this area," advised Schmidt. 

Police are appealing to witnesses to contact Aurora OPP at 905-841-5777.