A fiery car crash in Gatineau Park has left the driver and passenger lucky to be alive, thanks to the brave actions of a local resident.
The crash took place around 10:30 on Friday, October 19, when a car left one of the parkways and crashed a ditch at the intersection of the Champlain and Gatineau Parkways, bursting into fire. Both occupants of the car were knocked unconscious and might well have met their ends right there, were it not for the quick thinking and derring do of Gatineau resident Régis Grégoire, who was in the area at the time of the accident ran towards the flames.
When Grégoire arrived at the car he noticed the driver was unconscious and but passenger moving, and implored:
“You have to wake up, buddy. Listen, we’re going to have to get your buddy out of there. He’s in a bad condition…”
Grégoire said it appeared the driver’s legs were broken in several places. “There was no way he was going to get out of there by himself alive, that’s for sure,” Grégoire recalled Sunday. “So the passenger was brave, man. He woke up. He helped me push [the driver] out the car. You know, it was a bad wreck.”
“The driver was almost on fire already when I got there. So it was a matter of seconds, really” said Grégoire. “I didn’t really have time to think. The car’s on fire, I have to get him out of there.”
“There’s no way I’m going to watch someone burn alive. That’s not going to happen.”
Gatineau Park a Popular Spot for Racing
While the RCMP continue to investigate and say while they don’t know how the car ended up in the ditch, this is not a unique case. In the summer of 2015 a speeding motorcyclist was killed near the Champlain lookout as he tried to pass another car.
And just this spring two people were killed in another crash in Gatineau Park, and this latest accident has prompted calls for the NCC to close the park to cars at night.
Since Gatineau Park is under NCC purview (i.e. a Federal responsibility) it is patrolled by the RCMP, who say there was no indication of impaired driving but added that speed and an inexperienced driver could be factors in the crash.
Anecdotally though, this is nothing new. Area residents and recreational users of Gatineau Park have long been complaining of speedsters taking advantage of the smooth roads, little traffic and few stop signs and infrequent police patrols to test their driving mettle. Even when I was in high school – we’re talking last century now – I knew people who would make use of the Park’s long, winding, uninterrupted and isolated Parkways for races, “doobie cruises”, and other shenanigans.
So what to do?
Calls for Gatineau Park Overnight Closure
Some think the answer is to close Gatineau Park overnight to car traffic.
Cycling enthusiast Doug Van Den Ham said he regularly spots tracks where cars have driven off the road and has on occasion seen cars still stuck in the embankment in the morning. He also thinks closing the park at night could help.
“I think the cover of darkness is definitely emboldening some people,”
“If there aren’t the resources to police throughout the night to deal with racing up there, that might be the best option.”, said Van Den Ham.
Cyclist Albert Saikaley agrees. “You’re not going to stop people from speeding,” he said. “At least close it off.”
He’s been biking in the park for 30 years and said he hasn’t ever seen RCMP patrolling the roads.
“I’ve heard of speed traps the odd time but I’ve never personally seen police here,” Saikaley said.
But not everybody is on board with this idea, and think that the RCMP need to crack down on the problem rather than shutting down roads at night.
“I think the roads are here for everybody and we should just share responsibility,” said motorcycle driver Klimowicz. “It could be patrolled more.”