A Toronto nurse working on the pandemic’s front lines is crediting two brave Samaritans and her red Mini Cooper for saving her life after a harrowing drive on the Westbound Gardiner.
Courtenay Erhardt, 26, was heading toward Bathurst St. on Tuesday morning to administer COVID-19 vaccines at a city shelter when a large dump truck staked its front grille into the driver’s side of her vehicle, pushing her small car sideways up the Jarvis St. ramp at Lakeshore Rd. and onto the expressway for half a kilometre.
The incident began when Erhardt was waiting for the traffic light to change so she could start up the Jarvis Street ramp. “I was in front of him at that stoplight. We were both trying to get onto the Gardiner.
“He hit me from behind when we were merging,” she told the Star.
“I was screaming and crying at the same time. Why wasn’t he stopping? I’m thinking, he’s either going to run me over or I’m going to go over the guardrail by the Scotiabank Arena. I’ve never been in an accident before.”
Toronto police have charged the dump truck driver with several driving and commercial motor vehicle offences. His name has not been released. Video of the incident, shot from what appears to be a condo bordering the Gardiner, has been widely shared on social media.
“Was this a stunt being filmed for a movie?” Twitter user JuniorCFLBomber4Life posted in response to the video shared by Detective Constable Scott Matthews, an investigator with traffic services. “That was unreal.”
For Erhardt, it was a terrifying blur.
“I remember making eye contact with a few drivers going by. I was hoping and praying someone would stop and help me.”
Cue the couple — a young man and woman — who had been following behind the truck.
They told her they saw plumes of smoke and knew something was terribly wrong.
“They pulled up about 50 metres ahead of me and that’s how they forced him to stop. They put their hazard lights on and got out of the car.”
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Erhardt was in such shock she didn’t know what to do when the man raced to her window. He pointed at her “unlock” sign on the inside door.
The truck driver, Erhardt said, emerged from his vehicle to ask if she was all right.
“He said, ‘I didn’t see you’ and asked me not to call the cops. He asked if he could pay for the damages. He was young.”
But the police were already en route, notified by the Good Samaritans.
“They were so, so kind,” she said. “They got a flat tire, I guess from all of the shrapnel coming off of my car.”
Erhardt said police told her the Mini’s low centre of gravity likely prevented it from rolling.
Her steel grip on the wheel to keep the tires from turning might also have helped.
Erhardt who sustained some physical injuries including neck and shoulder pain and dizziness, is leaving Toronto in a few weeks for a nursing job in British Columbia.
“I was going to sell my car before I left,” she said of the vehicle she had purchased in January, 2020, for her job with Inner City Health Associates that requires her to travel to various city shelter sites. “But obviously that’s not going to happen anymore.”
This isn’t the first time a construction vehicle has pushed a small car down a busy Toronto highway.
In January 2020, Ontario Provincial police charged a 50-year-old Whitby man with careless driving after video showed his truck changing lanes and pushing a silver sedan sideways on to the shoulder of Highway 401 near the Bayview exit.
Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @dzlo
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