Large-scale pile-up shutters Trans-Canada in Westman
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2022 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Three people were taken to hospital Thursday, after roughly 25 vehicles were involved in a pileup which shut down the Trans-Canada Highway in both directions between Virden and Brandon.
The crash happened in the ice-covered eastbound lanes, about halfway between Griswold and Alexander, just before 12 p.m.
About 15 semi-trucks and up to 10 passenger vehicles were involved, the RCMP said.
Three people were hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening.
A STARS air ambulance crew was deployed but called back while en route to the scene in the Rural Municipality of Whitehead, a spokesman said.
Photos taken by the RCMP show a totalled car with its air bags deployed, and several jackknifed tractor-trailers around it on a clear, sunny day. The side of a semi-trailer was torn open, cargo and other debris strewn across the highway.
A number of vehicles ended up in snow-packed ditches, including a tractor-trailer that rolled onto its side.
Dozens of vehicles were stuck in a traffic jam in the eastbound lanes.
Sand was applied to the highway earlier in the morning, but lanes were still partly ice covered, according to Manitoba 511’s highway conditions map.
Stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway between Brandon and the Manitoba-Saskatchewan boundary have been alternating between open and closed since the area was hit by blizzards and freezing rain over the weekend.
About two hours before the pileup, the eastbound lanes reopened between Virden and Highway 21, near Griswold, and the westbound lanes reopened from Virden to the provincial boundary.
The closures were due to “poor ice winter driving conditions,” according to Manitoba 511.
About 45 minutes after the pileup, the entire stretch between Brandon and the boundary was shut in both directions for the same reason.
“Everything has been ice-covered,” RM of Whitehead councillor Trevor Tuttosi said of road and highway conditions in the aftermath of freezing rain and a cold snap. “It’s all of southwestern Manitoba.”
RCMP assess weather and highway conditions, and make all decisions to close roads or highways due to unsafe conditions, according to the Manitoba 511 road and traveller information website.
Manitoba Infrastructure works with the RCMP on road closures, and maintains the provincial highway system.
Sand and/or chemicals are applied on ice-coated highways when needed and as weather conditions permit, according to the website.
“Crews have been continuously applying sand/salt to this section of highway since the freezing rain this past weekend,” a spokesperson for the province wrote in an email. “The decision to implement an emergent road closure is usually initiated by the RCMP.”
The Free Press asked the RCMP to comment on the decision to reopen the closed sections of the Trans-Canada on Thursday morning, but did not receive a response.
Meanwhile, tow trucks from as far away as Winnipeg — a round trip of about 500 kilometres — were heading to the crash site.
The highway was likely to be closed for hours, RCMP said. A detour was in place.
“Once (the scene) is cleared, then officers will determine if the highway is safe to reopen or will remain closed,” RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine wrote in an email. “Icy conditions were a factor. It is too early at this point to determine what happened to cause the collision.”
She urged motorists to slow down and drive to the conditions.
“The speed limit is for pristine road conditions. Also plan ahead of time, check Manitoba 511 to see if the road you plan on taking is open and what the road conditions are like,” Courchaine wrote. “We want everyone to get to their destination safely.”
No one had been ticketed or charged, as of Thursday afternoon.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.