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Woman Charged in Accident That Led to Deadly Chain of Events

Woman Charged in Accident That Led to Deadly Chain of Events

A passenger bus lays in the ditch, off of the 401 Highway, near Woodstock, Ont. Sunday, August 22, 2010. The bus crashed Sunday morning, killing one person and injuring numerous passengers.

The Ottawa Citizen via YellowBrix

August 26, 2010

WINDSOR, Ont. — A 19-year-old woman has been charged with careless driving in a weekend accident that injured five firefighters from the eastern Ontario town of Napanee.

The crash, which occurred Saturday afternoon on the 401, set off a chain of events that led to a fatal accident Sunday morning involving some of the same men. The second collision claimed the life of a Napanee woman and injured 12 others.

The first accident occurred around 4:15 p.m. on Saturday as five volunteer firefighters from Napanee — Kevin Duncan, David Goodfellow, Alan Hatton, Daniel Matthieu, and Joseph Reid — were driving home from Windsor, where they had participated in a firefighting skills competition.

Elgin OPP Const. Troy Carlson said the friends were travelling east on the 401 near Graham Road, midway between Chatham and London, when a grey Honda merged into traffic, lost control, and struck the Chevy Venture minivan carrying the firefighters. The impact of the collision forced the minivan across the median and into the westbound lanes of the 401, where it was hit by a tractor-trailer.

The 19-year-old driver of the Honda, Brianna Muia of London, has been charged with careless driving.

All five firefighters were rushed to area hospitals for treatment of cuts and bruises and then released, except Kevin Duncan, who had suffered a fractured vertebra.

When news of the accident reached Napanee that evening, the town dispatched a chartered bus with family members and local officials aboard to retrieve the injured men.

The rescue mission turned into tragedy at 6 a.m. Sunday when, just 100 kilometres from the site of the first accident, the bus heading back to Napanee ploughed into a metal guardrail outside Woodstock, jumped the barrier, flew through the air and crumpled into the ground at the side of the 401 near the exit to the 403. The crash killed 49-year-old Darlene Goodfellow, the wife of firefighter David Goodfellow.

All the other occupants of the vehicle suffered injuries and were taken to nearby hospitals.

Residents of Napanee are still coming to terms with the tragedy.

“I think there’s a lot of disbelief,” said Rebecca Murphy, director of corporate and legal services for Greater Napanee, a town of 15,000. “Lots of people are coming to express their sympathies. There’s all kinds of outpourings of support.”

At Napanee’s fire hall, residents are gathering to convey their grief and meet with bereavement counsellors.

Acting deputy fire chief David Peterson said while firefighters are trained to deal with emergencies and often work “on the inside of the yellow tape,” nothing could prepare the men for this tragedy.

Peterson added that the firefighters are trying to learn from the accident,comparing their performance on the job as emergency service personnel to their experiences as victims.

By Wednesday night, all but three of the crash victims had returned to Napanee.

Oxford OPP Const. Michelle Murphy said the roads were slightly wet at the time of the second accident, but police are still investigating the fatal crash and have not yet determined its cause or whether charges will be laid.