Constable Ray Baldwin, of the Ontario Provincial Police, Bala detachment, was the first official to arrive at the accident scene. He was responding to a 911 call from a motorist who identified himself as James Welch. Baldwin stepped from his cruiser to scan a scene of utter destruction. It was painfully obvious that two trucks, one large and one small, had been involved in a violent collision. Both the tractor and the trailer of the red Peterbilt were on their sides, about twenty feet from the north shoulder of highway 69. Like match sticks, thirty-five steel I-beams were strewn beyond the trailer. The green Ford pick-up truck was inverted and had come to rest between two large boulders. The boulder closer to the shoulder obscured the view of the truck’s cab making it impossible to assess the condition of its driver from where Baldwin stood. He hurried back to his vehicle and radioed for backup O.P.P. assistance, paramedics, and Firefighters E.R.T., Emergency Response Team.
He again stepped from his vehicle and approached a short man in his early thirties who was standing on the highway’s shoulder, blowing on his hands, and enduring the horrible weather conditions. “Are you James Welch?” he asked.
Welch nodded, continuing to stare at the devastation.
“Did you witness the collision?”
“No, but the big truck’s wheels were still going around when I got here. I phoned right away.”
“Thanks you,” Balwin said, then climbed over the rocks to the overturned Peterbilt cab. Standing close to the truck’s hood, he peered through the opening that once housed the glass windshield, he saw the driver slumped forward against his mangled steering wheel. The entire left side of his face had been ripped off by a jagged boulder which had also crushed the left side of the cab.
Concluding that there was nothing he could do for the driver, he turned and headed for the green Ford. He saw that the inverted Ford’s cab was wedged and partially crushed between two large boulders. He descended to his knees, rolled onto his back, then crawled under the truck’s hood until he could move no further. He looked through shattered windshield to see the bloodied face of the driver, his seat-belt still holding him in his original position. He closed his eyes and shook his head, horrified that the truck was too old to have air bags. Because he could move no closer, or move his arms, he was unable to determine if the driver was alive or dead. He started to reverse his crawl, worried about the amount of time it would take to extract the driver safely from his extremely awkward position. The snow and blowing snow continued, unabated.
Within thirty minutes, the accident scene had exploded into a beehive of activity. The driving snow was colored by the flashing red, blue and yellow lights of three O.P.P. cruisers, two fire trucks, the E.M.T. truck, an ambulance, and two tow trucks. Working against the clock, abysmal weather conditions, and difficult terrain, a group of fourteen men, consisting of police, firemen, and E.M.T. staff, using a complex hydraulic winch and the jaws of life, both cutter and expander, managed to extract Steve from the cab of his truck. He was unconscious and his pulse was weak, but he was alive, barely. He was strapped into a stretcher, covered with blankets, then transferred to a waiting ambulance. From there, he was rushed to the triage center at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge. After thorough examination and consultation with doctors in Toronto, he was transferred by helicopter to the Traumatic Brain Injury Center at Toronto’s St. Michaels Hospital, one of only two hospitals in downtown Toronto with a helipad. There doctors began a fight to save his life.
Steve’s green Ford was loaded onto a flat-bed truck and transported to a junk yard, near Bala, ten kilometers south of the accident scene.