Eight people injured in severe head-on crash

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Eight people were seriously injured last Friday in a gruesome head-on crash on Highway 26 in Stayner.

Former Clearview Township firefighter Mike Payne was early on the scene of the afternoon crash involving a van and a coach bus that sent two adults and six children – two 10-year-olds, two four-year-olds, one eight-year-old and one 15-year-old to hospital with serious injuries. One 10-year-old was in critical condition, according to OPP spokesperson Const. Peter Leon.

All were passengers in a van, said to have Texas licence plates, that collided with a coach bus carrying 45 people, mostly students from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, returning home from a ski trip.

Payne, a Stayner resident and Simcoe County District School Board employee en route between high schools in Stayner and Collingwood, stopped to offer assistance.

He arrived to what he describes as a frantic and graphic scene.

Payne said he took direction from the paramedic in charge of the scene and worked with an officer to get one of the children out of the van.

“And then we just started going through, seeing how many people were in the van and picking the worst ones, trying to get them out first,” he said. They were able to get three people out and by then enough firefighters had arrived to continue with the extrications, while Payne stayed in the police cruiser and talked to the 15-year-old boy.

Several Ornge air ambulances were en route and, although originally there was a plan to land in the parking lot at Stayner Collegiate Institute, they ended up transferring patients at the hospital in Collingwood and also at Collingwood Regional Airport before transporting them to Toronto area hospitals.

Payne said he was really impressed with the management of the scene and the coordinated rescue effort, made difficult by the severity of the injuries, the destruction to the vehicle and the cold temperature. He said everyone did a phenomenal job.

“I was a volunteer fireman for about 10 years and when you come across an accident with that many people, especially children, it’s a whole different dynamic when you are trying to extricate. Everyone acted professionally and in as fast a manner as possible,” said Payne. “It was a severe car accident and the vehicle sustained major damage and some of the people were trapped pretty seriously.”

He said it was a very difficult extrication because of the severe damage to the front of the van.

No one on the bus sustained serious injuries.

Clearview’s municipal transit service was suspended so that the bus could be used to transport the students from the scene of the crash to the arena, where the Stayner Lions did what they could to make them comfortable until a replacement bus arrived.

Lions president Sandra Squire said fellow Lion Robert Walker called on her to help get the arena concession stand, which is operated by the Lions, up and running with the help of arena staff Mike Young. During the students stay at the arena, about two hours, they were treated to drinks, hot food and snacks, all courtesy of the Lions Club.

Squire said the students were patient and thankful, but also a little shaken up from the collision.

“Mostly, they collected their thoughts. It was pretty traumatic for them,” said Squire, adding she chatted with them while they waited for their hotdogs to come off the grill.

“It’s the sort of thing you would want, if your own family was involved in such a thing, it’s nice to know that communities pull together and do this, from loading up the Clearview bus – that’s how they got them to the community centre – I think that was a great idea. The whole process went smoothly, as smoothly as it can in a situation like that.”

Squire added, “The motto of Lions Clubs International is We Serve! Helping out this way is one of the best ways to demonstrate that.”

Highway 26 was closed between 27-28 Sideroad and Mosley Street until about 9 p.m. The cause of the collision has not yet been determined.

The OPP is investigating with the assistance of Transport Canada.

Sylvia Bray photo: Simcoe County paramedics conduct a patient transfer to an Ornge airplane waiting at Collingwood Regional Airport.  

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