Emergency workers faced a raging wall of fire on Thursday at the scene of a horrific accident north of St. Albert that claimed two lives and sent another to hospital.
The accident on Highway 37 at the Sturgeon River Bridge occurred around 2:45 p.m. and involved two pick-up trucks headed in opposite directions before one swerved into the oncoming lane.
Staff Sgt. Mac Richards along with other members of the Morinville RCMP arrived on scene shortly after the crash when the fire still raged.
“These things were fully engulfed. It was basically fire from one side of the highway to another side of the highway — you couldn’t get through,” said Richards. “We had members on each side, but you couldn’t move back and forth; you were stuck on one side or the other, the fire was just too intense.”
The blaze consumed both vehicles and spread down onto the grass on the side of the bridge.
Firefighters from Morinville and Namao rushed to the scene to extinguish the blaze. Morinville fire Chief Ron Cust said the dual response allowed fire crews to attack it from both sides.
Richards said the investigation is ongoing, but indicated RCMP believe it was the eastbound vehicle that veered into the wrong lane. That pick-up truck was towing a van on a flatbed trailer and Richards said it appears both of the people who were killed were in that vehicle.
The victims’ names are not being released until they can be positively identified. Richards said that will likely require dental records.
“We still have to complete our investigation. Until we can complete it this is just our feelings.”
The driver of the westbound pick-up truck was taken to hospital with unspecified injuries.
Cust said the westbound driver was able to get clear of the scene after the accident, before the fire started. He said firefighters regularly respond to accidents on Highway 37. That area near the river has seen many crashes before, he added.
Cust said modern vehicles don’t commonly catch fire after an accident, but it still happens. He said this crash would have involved a tremendous amount of force.
“If both were going the speed limit you still have 200 kilometres of force and impact that has to be dissipated.”
Richards said police have interviewed a number of witnesses who saw the crash and believe they have a good picture of what happened, but would welcome anyone else who came forward.
“If anyone saw it we are interested, but this is a bit of a different case. If you were a witness you couldn’t just drive on.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Morinville RCMP at 780-939-4550.