On Friday June 24th, 2016, shortly after 9:45 pm on Toronto’s Highway 400 just south of Sheppard Avenue West, 12 vehicles, three of which were tractor-trailers crashed into one another in the southbound lanes. A fire engulfed one of the tractor-trailers and two of the other vehicles. Four people were killed.
Even some five days later, what caused the crash reportedly remained a mystery. Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police reportedly said road and weather conditions were good at the time, and there was no highway construction in the area. The investigation was pointing to driver error, perhaps one of the truck drivers involved not slowing down.
Sgt. Schmidt also described the fire-ravaged vehicles as “completely unrecognizable” and said, “I think this is one of the most incredible scenes I’ve ever been to in terms of the number of fatalities and just the trauma that’s been sustained and the way these vehicles ended up.” Online photos underscore this description of the mayhem.
On Saturday, the police confirmed that of the four people killed, three were from one family—five-year-old Isabela Kuci, her 35-year-old mother, Valbona Vokshi, and her 55-year-old grandmother, Xhemile Vokshi—and Seneca College student Maria Lipska, who would have graduated the following Monday.
Amazingly enough, of the others involved, two went to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, while several others sustained only minor injuries. In short, this was the type of catastrophic crash that captures media attention beyond local confines reminding us, yet again, of the risk inherent in road usage and how quickly horrific tragedy unfolds when the risk materializes.
Five days later, a backgrounder article appeared in the National Post newspaper on the Vokshis family describing them as “grief-concussed” but with an “unusual, un-modern but graceful willingness to wait for answers.” We learned they were immigrants who came to Canada to “pursue the dream most immigrants have,” as Blerta Vokshi, who is aunt, daughter and sister to the dead and an injured survivor of the same crash put it.
When the crash happened, the family was returning from a daylong visit to the amusement park called Canada’s Wonderland in two vehicles, Isabela in one car with her mother and grandmother, Blerta in another with baby Aron strapped in a car seat. Blerta’s shoulder was shattered in the crash preventing her from unbuckling Aron.
An unidentified Good Samaritan released Aron, likely saving his life. Wanting to find and thank this woman motivated this otherwise reluctant family to speak through their representatives to the media. The backgrounder also noted that thanks to the car seat, Aron “was fine but for bumps and bruises.”
This tragic story has reminded us of our collective acceptance of road carnage as an unremarkable aspect of life today. It appears that this incident has not been the subject of comment from political leaders.