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OPP officer said 'someone's going to get hurt' before wrong-way Hwy. 401 crash

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As multiple Durham police cruisers were chasing a robbery suspect on the wrong side of Highway 401 Monday night, an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer shared his concerns, telling a dispatcher, "Someone's going to get hurt."

"We have a wrong way. It's Durham's in pursuit. The wrong way is going westbound on the eastbound lanes," the officer informs the dispatcher. "Multiple Durham units are going the wrong direction there."

A series of radio communications obtained by CTV News Toronto provides a glimpse of the events that unfolded that day, which ended in a six-vehicle collision that left a couple and their infant grandchild dead. An occupant from the suspect vehicle was also killed in the crash, and one other person was seriously injured.

One audio recording captured the moment dispatch advised OPP officers to be on the lookout for a suspect in a robbery that occurred just before 8 p.m. at an LCBO location near Green Road and Highway 2 in Bowmanville.

"Durham (police) advising there was a male inside the LCBO. He tried to rob the store. He pulled a knife on an off-duty officer," the dispatcher says.

"Left in a vehicle, last seen northbound on the 418 from Highway 2." The dispatcher proceeded to describe the suspect vehicle, a U-Haul, before broadcasting that the off-duty officer driving a red Honda Odyssey was following behind.

The dispatcher later says that at least 12 police vehicles with their lights on are pursuing the suspect as he continues to flee.

"They'll call us back if it goes in our area. But they said OPP is probably not needed at this point," the dispatcher says.

According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which is probing the actions of Durham police in the collision, officers followed the suspect through numerous streets and continued when he entered the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 travelling west.

"If we can pass on, I just want to make sure the Durham sergeant's aware that they're driving the opposite direction," an officer is heard telling the dispatcher, who replied: "10-4. We're calling in now."

Dashcam footage sent to CP24 shows a vehicle in the right lane pulling onto the shoulder of the busy highway to avoid a van travelling towards it, as well as a police cruiser, its lights flashing, pursuing the van.

A short time later, the officer informs dispatch that there has been a collision involving a transport truck and the vehicle is stopped.

A driver who was travelling in the same direction as the pursuit described the speed of the chase as "insane" when they passed him.

"I was hoping somebody would call it off," Brodie Mills told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday. He recounted hearing an explosion, which he believed was the exploding gas tank of one of the vehicles.

"I felt it in my truck pretty good. So I mean, for how small the car was, it was a pretty big explosion," he said.

The SIU has assigned five investigators, a forensic investigator and a collision reconstructionist to the case.

"Every situation is different and as part of the SIU's investigation we are going to look into the pursuit; When it started, where it started, what transpired, what made up the pursuit and taking a look at policies and things like that," an SIU spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Should police chase have been called off? 

Based on the details that have been released about the collision, CTV News safety analyst and former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis said it was hard to understand the actions of police, especially given that it stemmed from a minor robbery.

"It's pretty tough ever to justify continuing to chase like that, in that fashion, in any circumstances," Lewis said.

He added that it will be interesting to learn what happened behind the scenes and why the decision to keep chasing was made.

"The sergeant or higher, the people on the (communications) centre, the senior officers on the road – they can call it off at any time, and the constables have to stop immediately. So if, in fact, that didn't happen, the big question is, why wasn't it called off? If it did happen, and why did it continue?"

With files from Joshua Freeman

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