ST. FRANÇOIS XAVIER -- Two semis and a fire truck were wrecked in a hair-raising crash for emergency workers that left one man in critical condition in hospital and slowed traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway to a crawl for hours.
The collision happened after a semi-trailer unit stopped at the side of the highway near St. François Xavier at about 1:30 p.m. The driver contacted emergency officials because the tractor was leaking diesel fuel onto Highway 1 near the junction of Highway 26. St. François Xavier fire department and RCMP at Headingley closed one of the eastbound lanes to allow for the cleanup.
About 45 minutes later, an eastbound semi with an empty livestock trailer collided with the fire tanker truck that was stopped at the scene, lost control and hit the back end of the semi-trailer.
The first semi jack-knifed, and the cab was demolished. The driver, a 29-year-old man from Steinbach, was airlifted to hospital and was in critical but stable condition late Thursday.
The driver of the semi that was hit, a 65-year-old Ontario man, was not injured.
Two volunteer firefighters and an RCMP officer were thrown to the ground by the force of the collision. They suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
An off-duty paramedic stopped at the scene and provided care to the driver of the semi from Steinbach.
An RCMP traffic reconstructionist was at the scene assisting with the investigation Thursday. Traffic slowed to a crawl past the wreckage, with two of the four lanes closed on the Trans-Canada Highway for several hours.
St. François Xavier Reeve Roger Poitras heard the collision and was at the scene.
"I can't understand it," said Poitras. "They were all parked with the (traffic) cones put out."
Bystanders and police were left trying to figure out why the semi driver didn't see the scene ahead and respond.
"They had everything under control and then this happened out of the blue -- for whatever reason," said Poitras.
He said he was upset because the volunteer firefighters and police were at the scene doing their jobs and could've been badly hurt or killed.
"It could've been very serious."