401 food: A history of edible accidents

401 food: A history of edible accidents

On Monday morning, a tractor-trailer overturned on Highway 401 near Winston Churchill Boulevard, setting loose some 50 pigs into crowded highway traffic. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of occurrence—the kind of thing you can’t bear to watch, but from which you can’t bear to look away—but, believe it or not, the traffic chopper guys had seen it all before. Over the past 25 years, just about every type of domesticated animal has taken a walk down North America’s busiest highway. (Perhaps there ought to be signs that read “yield to merging livestock.”) And live animals are just the beginning: if you can eat it, it’s been spilled on the 401. Forthwith, a summary of the highway’s recent edible accidents.

Date: October 30, 1986 Location: eastbound Highway 401 exit to Highway 400A truck carrying 7,700 chickens to slaughter overturned on the exit ramp, resulting in a five-hour shutdown as police and firefighters tried to herd the fowl. The driver was treated in hospital for minor injuries, and one OPP officer had to leave the scene when she became awash in droppings.

Date: April 24, 1988, 11:05 a.m.Location: Highway 400 exit to westbound Highway 401 Ten cows were killed when a trailer carrying cattle overturned and cracked open. Some 20 managed to escape, and though most grazed at the side of the road, a few roamed among midday traffic between Keele and Weston before police could block off the street. Two had to be put down due to injuries, and police shot three others that tried to avoid capture.

Date: September 19, 1993, 7 a.m.Location: Highway 401 exit to Highway 400Same story five years later: 15 of the beasts were killed and more than 30 let loose when a truck carrying approximately 100 cattle overturned in west Toronto. This time, many were rounded up into a makeshift pen, where they munched on the grass at the side of the ramp. Seven animals were shot after they wandered from the scene and began to roam the highway. The driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Date: November 7, 1994, 11 a.m.Location: Eastbound Highway 401 exit to northbound Highway 427A tanker truck loaded with vegetable oil crashed through a guardrail and spilled its slick cargo on both the highway and the ramp, as it lay, overturned and dangling, above the westbound 401. The driver was unhurt, but numerous vehicles were sprayed with oil and the 401 was closed in all directions through evening rush hour.

Date: April 24, 1996, 6:30 a.m.Location: Highway 401 at Keele StreetIn a chain reaction event, a truck swerved to avoid an overturned Toyota 4Runner, flipped onto its side and spilled 30 tons of chicken feed, backing up traffic on highways 401 and 427, and the QEW well into the afternoon. Three people were taken to hospital, one with serious injuries.

Date: September 2, 1999, 3 a.m.Location: westbound Highway 401 exit to Allen RoadA tractor-trailer carrying load of 82 pigs to a Des Moines, Iowa, breeding farm flipped, closing the ramp until 11 a.m. The driver was not hurt, but 18 pigs died; a trail of blood ran across the ramp from the trailer as it lay on its side. Firefighters sprayed the overturned trailer with water to ease the effects of the hot sun on the pigs trapped within. The hogs that survived, now unfit to breed, were sent for slaughter.

Date: May 29, 2003, 3:30 a.m.Location: westbound Highway 401 and Jane Street A transport truck carrying 85 head of cattle tipped over while going too fast when changing lanes, wreaking havoc through the morning rush hour. In all, 37 cows were either killed or had to be humanely destroyed due to injuries. The driver was unhurt, and the remaining cattle were loaded onto a second truck to complete their voyage to the Stoney Creek slaughterhouse.

Date: May 11, 2005, 6:30 a.m.Location: Jane Street at Highway 401A Honda Civic collided with a Molson truck, spilling 2,184 cases of beer and closing the eastbound express lanes through the entire morning rush hour. No one was seriously hurt, though both the Civic and the beer were complete write-offs.

Date: January 25, 2007Location: Highway 401 at Don Mills RoadA rig hauling thousands of 500-millilitre bottles of spring water struck an overpass, spilling much of its load over the median and into the path of a bus carrying a peewee hockey team to a tournament in Montreal. “It looked like a tsunami,” said one hockey dad who was on board. The spill covered much of the express lanes in ice; two westbound lanes remained closed through the evening rush hour.