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The Scene of the Accident

Accident on Baseline Road, Ottawa, Saturday April 15, 2017

I was walking on Fisher Avenue when I saw the flashing blue lights at the intersection with Baseline Road.

It was raining. I hastened not only because I was soaked but also because I was hoping to buy fresh bread and other groceries at the supermarket—shops had been closed for Easter Friday and the following day, Easter Sunday, was another bank holiday, so lineups were long and shelves empty. Aside from that, I was just following the usual Saturday routine. I had just cleaned the house from top to bottom for a couple of hours, cursing LEGO and discovering a world I hadn’t suspected under the couch, and after the grocery trip I’d go home, sort out the laundry and relax—I know, the minutiae eating my life are absolutely fascinating.

At the end of Fisher, I turned left on Baseline for the final 1.3-km-long stretch taking me straight to either Loblaws, Food Basic or Walmart. I glanced at the lone police car at the intersection—probably a driver caught speeding.

Immersed in a podcast, I kept on walking. It took me a couple of minutes to notice something wasn’t right—there was no traffic on Baseline Road, one of Ottawa’s major east-west artery.

I paused the podcast, took my hood off and looked around. There. I saw more flashing blue lights straight ahead. Ah. So the first police car at Baseline and Fisher was blocking the traffic. Boy, I’m slow sometimes…

A hundred metres further up the road, yellow tape was up from the median to the Experimental Farm side. There were several first-responder vehicles parked along the road and a handful of officers under the rain. No paramedics—we weren’t at this stage of the accident anymore.

I slowed down once I realized the drama was probably over—I didn’t want to witness a possible gory scene.

Then I saw the wreck and I let out a gasp. The black car was flipped over on his roof and had somehow landed in the Experimental Farm.

It was very quiet after what must have been minutes of chaos and drama.

One of the officers was looking at the car, shaking in head.

“What the fuck…” I muttered.

A neighbour stepped out of the house and started taking pictures with his phone.

“Did you see what happened?” I asked.

“Nope. Just got there twenty minutes ago. But apparently, the car came from Merivale, up there… see the yellow markers?”

I squinted. “On the median?”

“Yep. So that means it must have crossed the median and one… two… three… yeah, three or maybe four poles, rolled over and it landed in the farm.”

“Holy shit.”

“I know!”

I resumed walking towards Merivale. I saw debris, a piece of bumper, the many markers left by the police, a yellow “bio-hazard” bag. No skid marks.

I paused again at the top of Baseline, looking down towards the scene of the accident. I still couldn’t believe how far the car had travelled from the moment it had crossed the median to where it had finally landed.

It was a small miracle it hadn’t hit other cars or crashed towards the houses on the other side of the road.

The news reported the two young men in the car had died at the hospitalspeed was the likely cause of the accident.

As a pedestrian in Ottawa, I often walk by accident scenes but they are rarely that dramatic, although a few weeks ago, there was another fatal crash on Merivale Road, a few blocks from where we live.

Most of the time, they are just minor collisions, aka “fender benders.” This is a term I learned when I was working at Canada Post and as you can expect, it wasn’t directly linked to my work as an editor-in-chief. At 2701 Riverside Drive, the head office is a tall building overlooking Heron Road and Riverside. From the eighth floor, it felt like being in a control tower. One of the PR guys often stood behind the window and commented the traffic and the many accidents at this busy intersection. “Just a fender bender,” he’d assessed. “Not sure why a firetruck showed up…” “Oh, gee, that one is nasty,” he’d announced once in a while. And then, we would take turns to watch the firetrucks, paramedics, police cars and tow trucks because the drama was far enough to not feel too real.

It’s funny: despite awful winter driving conditions, I always see more accidents during the warmest months. Fancy convertible cars are back on the road, drivers feel too confident and speed, who knows. But it always strikes me as odd when I see crazy accidents on warm, dry days.

I’ve always found the idea of sitting in a metal box to get around slightly crazy. The odds of something going wrong seem high when you rely on a piece of machinery, your own abilities and other people’s skills to avoid collisions. Most of the time, we all arrive alive, which is a small miracle.

Like most of us, I’m a driver and passenger. I’m not that scared of car rides.

But drive safe. The alternative is deadly.

The wreck in the Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Saturday April 15, 2017
Accident on Baseline Road, Ottawa, Saturday April 15, 2017
Accident on Baseline Road, Ottawa, Saturday April 15, 2017

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