A flying wheel struck three cars on Queen Elizabeth Way on Tuesday, killing one and shutting down a section of the Toronto-area freeway for hours, police say.
The 77-year-old man from Oakville, Ontario. was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, a 77-year-old woman, escaped unscathed but was taken to hospital as a precaution.
The woman had to park the vehicle on the side of the road after the stray wheel crashed into the driver’s side, according to Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police Traffic Division.
Schmidt said the OPP first received a report of a collision on the QEW highway at 11:20 a.m.
Witnesses reported seeing a tire and wheel assembly come out of a boat trailer being pulled by a van traveling west near Winston Churchill Boulevard.
The wheel bounced into the eastbound lanes of the QEW Freeway, colliding with a white car carrying the two 77-year-old men, which was traveling at freeway speed.
“The tire continued to bounce on the freeway, colliding with two other vehicles before eventually getting stuck under the last vehicle and coming to its final rest,” Schmidt said.
Police have since located the van driver and boat trailer at a marina, and the driver has spoken to police, Schmidt said.
A “tragic result”
Schmidt said investigators believe the wheel may have come off due to a mechanical or installation error. The trailer has three axles and one of the wheels on one of the separate axles, he added.
The wheel, which hit the white car’s windshield and roof, caused an “unbelievable” amount of damage and destruction, Schmidt said. Damage to the other two vehicles was minimal, he said.
A 77-year-old Oakville man has been pronounced dead after a set of wheels came off a boat trailer that was being towed for the first time on the #QEW. The trailer has been located, investigation underway by #BurlingtonOPPall QEW eb lanes reopening now pic.twitter.com/0eKKiZQEK5
“For anyone driving on the freeway, you never expect to see something like this coming your way, and the moment you realize it’s on a collision course with you, you really don’t have time. to react,” Schmidt said.
“There’s really nothing a driver can do to react quickly enough to avoid a collision like this.”
Schmidt said the boat trailer was only purchased on Tuesday and the driver was taking it to a marina on his first trip in some time.
“Obviously, this is another reminder for anyone who shoots equipment that isn’t used very often, that’s properly maintained, that’s working properly. We know how quickly these things can break down and end up in a situation like this.” said Schmidt.
“You can see the tragic outcome behind me right now,” he said.
All eastbound QEW lanes were closed at Ford Drive to allow police to investigate, but were due to reopen from 4:15 p.m.
Emergency crews, along with representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, were on the scene. Police are also investigating the trailer at the marina, Schmidt said.
Burlington OPP is asking anyone with information to come forward.