Judy Crane re­calls hor­rific ac­ci­dent

New Chelsea and area res­i­dents say im­prove­ments needed to lo­cal road

The Compass - - THE COMPASS - BY TERRY ROBERTS

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.

Lengthy cleanup

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.

Photo by Terry Roberts/The Com­pass

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.

Sub­mit­ted photo

The Toy­ota Yaris driven by Judy Crane is barely vis­i­ble be­neath this over­turned trans­port truck.

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