Judy Crane recalls horrific accident
New Chelsea and area residents say improvements needed to local road
It was just before 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 9 and Judy Crane, behind the wheel of her pintsized Toyota Yaris, had her right foot poised over the brake, preparing to make the left turn onto Pond Road in New Chelsea, Trinity Bay.
She had just finished doing laundry at her home in New Melbourne, some six kilometres to the northeast along Route 80, and was returning to the new travel trailer that Judy and her husband, Merrill Crane, had recently situated on family land in New Chelsea.
She had to cross the oncoming lane in order to make the precarious turn into Pond Road, and had her eyes peeled for any traffic that might emerge from the blind turn just up ahead. But just seconds before the intersection, a massive tractor-trailer came into view, and Judy knew right away that a whole lot of trouble was headed her way.
She said it appeared the fully loaded trailer, unable to handle the momentum as the truck navigated the sharp, uphill turn, was flipping onto its side. What’s more, she said, it was travelling in the oncoming lane, coming directly at Judy’s car.
Loaded with seafood
What happened next has been playing over and over in Judy’s mind ever since. The mammoth vehicle crashed into Judy’s car, pushing it partially into the ditch. The truck also flipped on it side, on top of the Yaris, directly above Judy’s unprotected head. The trailer, laden with some 36,000 pounds of shrimp and ice, wedged up against a large rock on the roadside, likely preventing it from sliding further down an embankment.
On Thursday morning, seated comfortably in her trailer with Merrill standing nearby, Judy recalled what happened.
“I only had seconds. My first thought was, ‘I’m going to die today, and I thought about Merrill.’ The next thing there was grinding, glass breaking, and I could feel something on my head.”
She paused at this moment to collect herself, and then continued: “When the dust settled, I said to myself, ‘I’m still alive.’ I got to get out of this car.’”
I only had seconds. My first thought was, ‘I’m going to die today, and I thought about Merrill.’ The next thing there was grinding, glass breaking, and I could feel something on my head.
— Judy Crane
Miraculously, Judy had survived, and seemingly without any injury. She soon realized that the truck was on top of her car, and fearful that it may crush the Yaris, scrambled to the passenger side. She tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She crawled into the back seat and tried that door. Again, no luck.
It was at this moment that a sense of panic started to creep in, and a man appeared outside her window. It was the driver of the tractor-trailer. He also couldn’t open the doors, and told Judy to stay in the back seat.
He used a rock to smash out the passenger door window, and by this time, Merrill and several neighbours had arrived, alerted by the earth-shaking vibrations and loud noise created by the collision.
Merrill and Clarence Belbin gently pulled Judy out of the car, feet first, and the true magnitude of what had just happened appeared before her eyes.
“I’m just amazed,” Judy said, pointing to the cut on her elbow that required four stitches, and the various scrapes and bruises on the rest of her body.
Judy and the driver were taken to hospital in the same ambulance, though both were later released.
Judy can’t say enough about the emergency response, praising the volunteer ambulance attendants and firefighters from Heart’s Delight-Islington to Bay de Verde who quickly raced to the scene.
“They were so good,” said Judy.
The accident occurred on an especially hazardous section of Route 80. The truck, owned by a Green’s Harbour company and having travelled from St. Anthony, was en route to the seafood processing plant in Bay de Verde.
As it approached the sharp turn in New Chelsea, it passed four different signs warning of falling rocks, a hidden intersection, a sharp turn and a blind hill.
The incident disrupted traffic flow in the area for many hours as the shrimp was removed from the trailer, and cranes were then brought in to remove the vehicles.
Residents say it’s common for large commercial trucks pulling trailers measuring 50plus feet in length to pull into the incoming lane in order to make the turn, since the shoulder of the road is unpaved and narrow, and the pavement is also chipped away at the edge.
Monday’s incident reinforced what area residents have been saying for a long time — improvements are needed before something drastic happens.
“These trailers are too long for our rural highway and incapable of maneuvering through the curves and ups and downs of the shore highway,” said New Perlican resident Greg Shyshko.
The number of commercial trucks using the highway increases exponentially during the summer months, when seafood products are being transported in and out of busy processing plants in Old Perlican and Bay de Verde.
“I have watched not just these trucks but traffic in general speed through our town with wanton disregard for the rules of the road,” Shyshko added, noting that concerned residents have “begged” the RCMP for increased patrols to address what he described as a dangerous and volatile situation.
An RCMP spokesman said the area is patrolled as much as possible, and he encouraged those with concerns to pass then along to the detachment in Harbour Grace.
“We take the number of complaints and we put the resources where they need to be,” said Sgt. Greg Hicks.
In New Chelsea, area residents have started a petition, and want provincial officials to take whatever measures are necessary to address the problem.
Judy Crane said the brush should be cut back from one area to give drivers a clearer view of oncoming traffic. She said a rock cut on the turn near Pond Road should also be blasted away, and the shoulder should be paved.
“I hope someone doesn’t have to die before something is done,” she said.
Judy Crane stands at the spot in New Chelsea, Trinity Bay where a transport truck collided with her small car on Monday, Sept .9. In the background is her husband, Merrill Crane.
The Toyota Yaris driven by Judy Crane is barely visible beneath this overturned transport truck.