New Brunswick

Survivor of head-on highway crash considers himself 'very, very lucky'

Dave Duffy was driving east on Route 1 Monday afternoon when all of a sudden he saw flashing lights heading toward him "and then bam," a pickup truck being chased by police struck his work van head on.

Dave Duffy's work van struck by pickup truck being chased by police on Route 1 Monday

Dave Duffy, pictured here as sports announcer for the Saint John Sea Dogs, was resting at home Tuesday with a heating pad on his bruised chest after being in a head-on highway crash Monday. (Submitted by Dave Duffy)

Dave Duffy was driving east on Route 1 Monday afternoon when all of a sudden he saw flashing lights heading toward him "and then bam," a pickup truck being chased by police struck his work van head on.

"I didn't have time to react or anything. It was just a split second of, 'This is gonna hurt,'" Duffy said Tuesday.

The force of the impact crushed the front end of his Ford Transit 150 and spun him 180 degrees.

But Duffy, 50, walked away with only a few minor cuts on his left hand and some bruising from his seat belt.

"I was really very, very lucky," he said.

"I was thinking to myself on the way [to the hospital] that you know, I've got more stuff to do on this Earth that needed to get done."

The two occupants of the truck were transported to the Saint John Regional Hospital, where they remained in serious condition, as of Tuesday night, said Saint John Police Force spokesman Jim Hennessy.

There is no word yet on any charges, he said. The force's major crime unit continues to investigate in conjunction with members of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force.

The two-vehicle crash, which occurred shortly after 2 p.m. near the Fox Farm‎ Road exit, closed the highway eastbound from the Rothesay Avenue on-ramp until about 9 p.m., said Hennessy.

The pursuit of the suspect vehicle began in east Saint John, said Hennessy. No details have been released as to why the vehicle was considered "of interest."

Police attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver did not stop.

"The vehicle travelled into the Town of Rothesay boundary and that is when the SJPF ended its pursuit," Hennessy said in a statement Tuesday night.

Route 1 eastbound remained closed from exit 129, the Rothesay Avenue on-ramp, for about seven hours Monday as police investigated the two-vehicle collision. (Rodney Doucette/Facebook)

Liam Grass believes he witnessed part of the chase. He said he and his girlfriend were about to get on the highway in Rothesay, heading westbound to Saint John around 2 p.m., when a police cruiser went "flying past" them.

Grass, 21, said he initially thought the officer was going to conduct a routine traffic stop, but then he saw the cruiser pull over in a U-turn area and the officer jumped out.

That's when Grass noticed two more police vehicles on the other side of the highway, travelling eastbound, following an older-model green pickup truck. "I kind of figured there was a chase, so I got my phone out and recorded it," he said.

The truck was "going really slow at the time and I realized they were putting the spike strips down" on the passing eastbound lane, said Grass.

"And then [the truck driver] just flies into the, like, little ditch and then onto the other side of the highway, cruising" head-on into westbound traffic.

Two people in the pursued vehicle and one person in the struck vehicle were transported to the Saint John Regional Hospital. The highway will remain closed from exit 129 until further notice. 0:26

"I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. I've never seen anything like that in my life," said Grass, who posted the video on a newschasers Facebook group.

"It's something you see on the news or on YouTube or something like that. But to see it in real life was something else, I'll tell you that."

It's unclear when or how the suspect vehicle subsequently ended up turned around travelling west in the eastbound lane.

Officers are still working on a final report, said Hennessy.

But the suspect vehicle "made its way back toward the Mackay Highway [also known as Route 1] at a high rate of speed, and crossed into the eastbound lanes but was heading westbound," he said.

'How did I walk away from this?'

Duffy, a technician for Bell Aliant, was travelling eastbound in his "office on wheels" on his way to a service call in Rothesay at the time.

"I looked up and noticed all these police cars coming toward me and I just kind of was trying to get out of the way," by moving over from the right lane to the shoulder, he recalled.

His van was still in motion when the truck hit. "I had no reaction time. I just saw it coming and there was no way to avoid it."

Duffy said the truck rolled before coming to rest behind his van, which ended up facing west.

After being checked over by emergency crews and placed in a neck brace, Duffy looked back at his crumpled van from the ambulance and thought, "How did I walk away from this?"

Guardian angels

Although Duffy doesn't consider himself a religious man, he believes his father, who died about 20 years ago, and his friend David (DK) Kelly, the former equipment manager for the Saint John Sea Dogs who died last March after a long battle with cancer, were both there, looking out for him.

Duffy managed to keep his sense of humour about his harrowing experience in a couple of Facebook posts Monday night.

"Wanted......1 new work van. Home from hospital. Yay," he wrote.

"Soooo if anyone sees a 28ft ladder on the side of the highway, it's mine...lol...it went airborne on impact."

Resting at his Quispamsis home Tuesday with a heating pad on his chest, Duffy said he's grateful to be alive and for the outpouring of support on social media.

"I'm here, that's the main thing," he said. "Every day's a good day if you're on the right side of the grass."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.