Highways across Alberta are starting to re-open after being shut down by massive pileups following a blizzard that saw one man run over by a semi-truck south of Edmonton and three people killed in a crash in northern Alberta.
Approximately 100 people needed medical attention after pileups clogged up the QEII Highway - the main artery between Calgary and Edmonton - between Ponoka and Edmonton. Mounties say anywhere from 85 to 100 vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses, were involved in the biggest of the pileups, which occurred near Leduc, just south of Edmonton.
"This does not take into account numerous secondary collisions outside the immediate scene," said RCMP Ponoka Traffic Services Const. Chris Noble.
"The investigation will take some time to sort out."
A man had to be taken to the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton in serious condition after he was located under a semi-truck along the QEII, Noble said.
"Initial scene investigation suggests that the lone male was out of his vehicle on the highway as a result of an involved collision.
"A semi-truck came over the crest of the hill and was unable to stop due to the icy road and white out conditions."
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The CBC reports that approximately 80 people were treated at the scene, while 22 had to be taken to several area hospitals and that approximately 45 heavily-damaged vehicles had to be towed away.
Icy conditions and blowing snow made highway travel treacherous on Thursday, prompting Mounties to shut down the main link between the two cities for nearly 12 hours.
The situation was made worse by the fact the weather was so bad, STARS air ambulance could not be deployed to the scene.
Edmonton city buses had to be brought in to transport stranded motorists, area towns opened their community centres to shelter drivers caught up in the storm and Edmonton Police Service members attended the scene to help Mounties control and divert traffic, and to relieve RCMP members who worked hours in the elements without a break, said Noble.
Two heads of cattle had to be put down after a cattle liner hauling 74 animals found itself in the middle of the pile, added Noble.
The violent storm also forced the EPS to shut down Anthony Henday Drive, Edmonton's ring road, prior to the afternoon rush. It was the first time such steps had been taken, the province confirmed. Edmonton police dealt with 133 collisions on Thursday, nine involving injuries, said the CBC.
Meanwhile, a 46-year man is facing three counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm, after his pickup truck collided head on with a compact car near Westlock, north of Edmonton.
Separate from the massive pileup just south of Edmonton, the crash occurred around the same time as the mass casualty event near Leduc and killed a 23-year-old woman, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, Westlock RCMP Cpl. Sandra Milner said.
"Highway conditions at the time of the collision were poor due to heavy snow and low visibility," she said.