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Ice, fog blamed for 70-vehicle pileup

OTTAWA - Sarah Houlihan was on her Monday morning commute to Ottawa through "a good East Coast fog," when she saw "a wall of red tail lights" looming a few hundred metres ahead.

OTTAWA - Sarah Houlihan was on her Monday morning commute to Ottawa through "a good East Coast fog," when she saw "a wall of red tail lights" looming a few hundred metres ahead.

Houlihan got her car stopped, but about 70 other drivers on what is also called the Veterans Memorial Highway south of Ottawa weren't so lucky.

Banks of ice fog ghosting over Highway 416 dropped visibility to zero. Vehicles piled into each other in two separate pockets of wreckage, others skidded off the slick pavement into ditches or snowbanks.

Const. Guy Prevost of the Ontario Provincial Police said there was serious damage to vehicles, but only a couple of minor injuries.

"There was a lot of cars with heavy damage, like their whole front end was gone, and cars that were totalled because they were being hit by different vehicles,"he said. "There were some pretty fierce collisions, but people ended up pretty good out of this."

Police and tow trucks took about five hours to sort out the massive snarl.

Nature combined with heavy traffic to produce the smash up.

"Fog was pretty much there all morning, it's just that in some places it was probably thicker than others,"said Prevost.

"You get rush hour mixed in with that and I guess the road conditions there were icy at the time. All the combinations were not very good."

Houlihan sat stopped for an hour in a traffic jam that stretched for kilometres before police began directing vehicles off the highway.

Her normal 45-minute commute to Ottawa from her home near Oxford Station turned into a two-hour ordeal.

Prevost said it was fortunate there were no tractor trailers involved in either of the two wreck sites, which were about a half a kilometre apart.

The northbound lanes of the roadway were shut completely until early afternoon and southbound traffic was cut to a single lane.

The highway, which runs nearly 100 kilometres between Ottawa and Prescott on the St. Lawrence River, is a major commuter route for the capital.

 
 
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