Construction workers, drivers hailed as heroes in fiery Highway 63 crash

Construction workers and motorists are being credited for saving lives after pulling people out of a fiery crash on Highway 63 that sent six to hospital.
The remains of an SUV that was hit by a tanker trailer on Highway 63 Monday. Four people were pulled from the burning wreck and were sent to hospital. (Kristina Partsinevelos/CBC News )

Construction workers and motorists are being credited for saving lives after pulling people out of a fiery crash on Highway 63 that sent six to hospital.

"There was a lot of quick thinking and quick acting," said RCMP Corp. John Spaans.

RCMP say the collision occurred at 7:30 p.m. about 18 kilometres north of Atmore.

Witnesses told police that the southbound tanker trailer struck the two northbound vehicles after the driver lost control and crossed the line into oncoming traffic.

Maurice Poirier helped pull victims out of an SUV that caught on fire and then used his truck to push the wreck into a slough, away from a tanker truck full of fuel. (CBC)

One of the vehicles, a Ford Explorer carrying four people, caught fire.

Maurice Poirier was working nearby and was one of the first to rush to the scene.

"By that time, the car was ignited in flames,"  he said on Tuesday. "But I was more worried about the flames so I ran to my truck and got the fire extinguisher."

Poirier and others were able to pull the four victims out to safety. Then the vehicle burst into flames, right beside the tanker truck. .

"I took my personal truck and rammed the car, tried to push it farther away into the ditch," he said.

Once the vehicle was in the slough, workers used a backhoe to scoop up water and pour it on the burning wreck. Corp. Spaans says their quick thinking saved lived.

"Had they not done this, the fear was that the tanker truck would have caught fire," he said. "And that would have been a completely different story."

Three of the people from the SUV -- a 21-year-old woman, and two men aged 19 and 48 -- were flown to hospitals in Edmonton. All three are from the same family.

The remaining three people, including the driver of the truck and the sole occupant of the second car, were taken to area hospitals.

Highway 63 reopened to traffic around 3:00 a.m.  Police do not believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.