Missed by mere seconds: Family narrowly escapes Hwy. 401 crash, explosion in Pickering | Globalnews.ca

A young man heading back home along Highway 401 from Kingston, Ont. to Burlington on Tuesday night said he was one of the last cars to make it out of the area before a fuel tanker truck exploded on the highway.

It was around 10:30 p.m. when a fuel tanker crashed into the centre median and sparked a massive fireball under the Brock Road bridge overpass, bursting into flames and killing two truck drivers.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmid said the fuel tanker truck was hauling two trailers of “highly flammable fuel” and the trailers rolled over onto the westbound lanes which “ruptured the tanks, creating a massive fireball in this area.”

Justin Grant told Global News he was on his laptop doing work while his mother drove the car and his father and sister were travelling in another car just ahead of them on the westbound lanes.

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His parents were both driving in the far left lane when all of a sudden he said he heard scraping and scratching against the barrier separating the east and westbound sides.

He said he turned his head to the side and saw a large amount of sparks and the truck tilting over the median. When he turned back around fully he said he saw the truck explode.

“It was extremely quicker than I could have ever imagined, the explosion was very loud,” Grant said. “My dad said that he felt it radiate the heat from inside the car.”

Grant said a truck travelling just behind them got caught in the explosion.

A passenger says he took this photo from the back of his mother’s vehicle on Highway 401 in Pickering after he and his family narrowly missed being caught in the fiery crash where a fuel tanker exploded.

Justin Grant / Submitted

The driver of that second transport truck was killed in the crash, police said.

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“He was only a matter of 20, 25, 30 metres behind us, just an average following distance, and its just crazy to think that could have been myself and my mom just a matter of one second earlier,” Grant continued.

Another passenger vehicle was also in the area at the time of the fiery crash but the driver and passenger were able to escape in time uninjured. Sgt. Schmidt said all three vehicle were completely engulfed in flames.

Schmidt also said it does not appear that the fuel tanker made contact with the other two vehicles, but the fuel that was spraying out of the trailer caused the fire to spread onto the car and the other transport truck. The highway is still closed for the investigation and cleanup, and motorists are being re-routed causing heavy traffic delays in the area.

“It was a theatric-like explosion where you almost think of it as being like straight from a movie,” Grant told Global News.

Grant said his mother then swerved into the middle lane while his father sped up.

“We were basically the last two cars that made it out of that explosion, fireball,” he said. “We basically looked behind us and then we came to a halt about 300 metres down the highway because at that point there’s no one behind us. It’s just an empty road with an extremely large fire that has started instantly.”

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A driver takes a photo of the fiery explosion following a crash on Highway 401 in Pickering on June 20, 2023.

Credit: Dylan Mohammed

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