THIRTY YEARS AGO IN THE MEDIUM: Evacuation a party for erindale students


For Erindale students, an unanticipated week away from the lecture halls and the library started off with a bang. Literally.
Saturday night, November 10, a couple of minutes to mid-night, the campus was rocked by a tremendous explosion. Windows rattled, walls shook and the ground trembled beneath your feet. Simultaneously, the entire countryside was lit by a hellish orange glow as huge pillars of flames lept into the night air.

Approximateley 10 minutes after the initial eruption, a second explosion sent a towering wall of flames thousands of feet into the air. The second blast turned the inky blackness of the night into full daylight. The entire campus was bathed in a thick, viscous flood of saffron light.

Blooming fireball

At first, some students, shocked by the incredible force of the blast thought that the physical plant had blow up; the smock and flame appeared to be that close. Others thought that a chemical plant somewhere east of the college had exploded. The most romantically inclined, perhaps those who had watched too many of Hollywood’s disaster movies were afraid that a jet had crashed, taking off or landing Toronto International Airport. This was definitely a possibility, considering that the college lies directly under one of the main approaches to the airport. Of course, none of these was behind the inferno raging just two mile east of Erindale College.

What was behind the fireball booming into the peaceful skies over Mississauga was actually the train wreck of the decade.

As almost everyone knows by now, a CP rail freight train carrying tank cars full of explosive propane and deadly chlorine gas derailed at a level crossing on Mavis Road, between Burnhamthorpe and Dundas. When the train derailed, the propane tankers burst into flame, some of them exploded and the holocaust began.

That is how it began and that is how it would have ended for the residence students of Erindale College; just another train crash, albeit a spectacular one. This, however was not to be as some of them soon found out.

When they felt the first explosion and saw the smoke and fire billowing into the night, some of the residence students jumped into their cars and raced east, towards the scene of the conflagration. Within minutes however, police and emergency personnel had cordoned off the area surrounding the wreck and had blocked all of the roads leading to the crossing.