WILLISVILLE—The December 6 entry of winter’s fury into the region nearly proved fatal, or at the very least could have led to serious injury, for Manitoulin OPP Community Services Officer Marie Ford. Thanks to her training, experience and quite a bit of luck only the cruiser she was driving suffered serious damage.
The officer was driving up Highway 6 towards Espanola on that steep portion of the Willisville hill flanked on either side by precipitous and rugged drops when a jackknifed tractor trailer came sliding down the hill toward her.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “It was pretty much across the whole road in front of me.”
Time may slow down when faced with a dramatic accident unfolding before you, but Constable Ford had to literally make a split second decision. In that split second, she opted for the ravine as the best of her bad options. “The guardrails kept me from going over,” she said. But it proved enough to keep her from colliding with the transport.
“When I got out of the cruiser, I saw that the whole side of it was destroyed,” she recalled.
According to Ministry of Transportation (MTO) spokesperson Andrew Healy, “winter operations (plowing and salting) were continuous on December 6 starting at 2:45 am through to 9 pm that day. Weather conditions were heavy snow squalls along the Highway 6 corridor.”
Mr. Healy noted that a complete circuit for a plow/salt truck on that portion of Highway 6 takes approximately 2.2 hours. “The plow/salt truck was approximately 15 minutes away on its continuous circuit from returning to the site of the accident that occurred at mid-day,” he said. “The temperatures that day were -4 degrees Celcius, making salt an effective treatment rather than sand.”
Asked if her OPP training played any part in avoiding disaster, Constable Ford said that she thought it almost certainly did. “You really don’t have any time to think about how to react, so I guess your training comes into play in making that decision,” she said.
As an OPP community services officer Constable Ford spends a fair bit of her time extolling the virtues of wearing a seatbelt at all times when operating a motor vehicle—and now she is a living proof of the value of those lifesaving devices.
Despite all her training and experience as a police officer in dealing with accidents and trauma, Constable Ford admitted that the incident had left her shaken—quite literally—but also very glad to be alive and uninjured. “I think I was also very lucky.”
Despite the serious potential of the accident, there were no serious injuries.