Highway 400 crash victim was father of 9 kids, 'loved his family,' widow says
3 people died in 14-vehicle pileup that sent others to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries
One of the victims of the fiery crash on Highway 400 late Tuesday was a father of nine who "loved his family "and was ready to "do anything to help anybody," his wife says.
Nikiyah Mulak-Dunn identified her husband, Benjamin Dunn, 37, as one of the three victims in the crash that ended in a 14-vehicle pileup, a series of explosions and a raging fire in the middle of the northbound lanes.
While police have not released the identities of any of the victims, Mulak-Dunn said police are 99 per cent sure her husband is among the dead. Investigators asked the family dentist for Dunn's dental records, she said. He had been driving a double-tanker on Tuesday night.
"He loved his family, he loved his children, he worked really hard and he was always upgrading, trying to be the best person he could be to contribute and create a stable home for our family," Mulak-Dunn told CBC Toronto in a telephone interview from her home in North Bay.
"He would do anything to help anybody."
The couple have nine children who range in age from a year old to 16, and her husband often juggled two jobs to support them, Mulak-Dunn said.
"He would still make it home to take our boys to hockey and our girls to dance classes," she said. "He made sure that family meals were a priority and he was just such a good husband, a father, and we're just so devastated that he's gone."
Members of their community have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral costs, as well as to support Mulak-Dunn and the children.
Meanwhile, all lanes of Highway 400 near the site of a fatal fiery crash have reopened, Ontario Provincial Police said early Thursday.
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The southbound lanes are open at Highway 89, police tweeted around 5 a.m. Around 6:30 a.m., police tweeted that the northbound lanes at Highway 88 also reopened.
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt later said that crews worked overnight to clear and re-pave the roadway. However, the right northbound lane was closed this morning for further environmental cleanup.
The lane will likely be closed all day, and delays should be expected.
He confirmed Thursday morning that three people died, and those who were injured have all been released from hospital.
"The investigation is going to continue now off the highway for some time as [investigators] speak to witneses, go through all the forensic evidence and come up with a cause," Schmidt said in a Periscope video posted to his Twitter account.
Crash triggered explosion, fire
The reopening of the roadway followed a 14-vehicle pileup that killed at least three people and left a portion of the highway about an hour north of Toronto littered with tangled and twisted metal.
The chain reaction of collisions started around 11:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, when a transport truck slammed into the back of another large truck that was stopped at the end of a long line of traffic in the northbound lanes. Two fully loaded tanker trucks, three other commercial vehicles and multiple cars were involved in the crash that ensued.
Immediately following the initial collision, a series of explosions sent fireballs into the night sky.
"The vehicles are completely destroyed, melted into the asphalt," Schmidt said Wednesday.
Early indications are that "potentially, an inattentive vehicle — potentially a fuel tanker approaching northbound to slow or stopped traffic, smashed into the back of the queued traffic," Schmidt said.
The tanker trucks essentially acted as "bombs on wheels," he continued.
In his Thursday Periscope video, Schmidt said a separate crash had occurred just ahead of the scene of the pileup, and traffic was likely slowing because of that.
Schmidt told CBC Toronto Wednesday that investigators will consider human and environmental factors in trying to determine what caused the chain reaction crash. It appears, however, that conditions were fair when the first trucks collided.
"There were no environmental conditions I am aware of," Schmidt said. "It was cool but the road conditions were bare. Environmental conditions were clear."
The OPP is asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to call its Aurora detachment with any information.