MTO to close Hwy 11 & South Mary Lake Rd. crossover in Port Sydney; Accident victim thinks too late

Karie Metherel and Jesse DeHaan's vehicle following their collision at the Hwy 11/South Mary Lake Rd. crossover on Aug. 29.

A fall accident at the Hwy 11/South Mary Lake Road Crossover.

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Agatha Farmer

Today, March 9 the Ministry of Transportation advised that the median crossover at Highway 11 and South Mary Lake Road / Stephenson Road 4 will be permanently closed as of March 23.

Provincial officials said that public safety is the ministry’s top priority and to ensure safety of the travelling public, the median crossover will be closed. Right in and right out turning movements will continue to be available at this location. The ministry has also initiated a detail design assignment to review and implement long term safety improvements at this intersection. Construction of these longer term safety improvements is anticipated to begin in 2021.

There have been 950 accidents on Hwy 11 between Bracebridge and Huntsville in the last 10 years. On Aug. 29, 2019 Karie Metherel and Jesse DeHaan along with their two children were added to those statistics at the Port Sydney South Mary Lake Road crossover.

As DeHaan was crossing the northbound lanes of Hwy 11 from South Mary Lake Road to make a left turn onto the lanes of Hwy 11 south their Volkswagen Jetta was hit at 113 km an hour by another vehicle heading northbound in the left hand lane. The major impact occurred on the drivers side of the car directly where their four year old son was located.

Their two year old daughter miraculously escaped unharmed and Metherel suffered a concussion. Their four year old son, however was not as lucky. He had a broken femur and clavicle. He had to undergo surgery and has metal rods inserted in his leg which will have to be removed in a year. DeHaan had multiple scull fractures, head trauma, a ruptured ear drum and as a result hearing loss.

Upon learning about the closure announcement this afternoon Metherel said "this is absolutely great news, makes me feel better to know that no one else is going to suffer because of that intersection. I feel like it should have been done years ago. We are still suffering," she said.

Karie Metherel and Jesse DeHaan with their two children a month following their accident.

Metherel confirmed that her husband still has not been cleared to go back to work and has been diagnosed with PTSD, while still having to drive past the intersection as he attends counselling in Huntsville.

"This is a constant reminder of what happend that day. The impact that the accident has had on our life is going to affect us for a very long time. The boys have healed physically for the most part but we are left to deal with mental trauma and that is going to last for years. If they would have closed it when they first got the approval years ago our lives would be different," Metherel said.

Kevin Powers is the co-founder and spokesperson for Safer Hwy 11 Muskoka, a group advocating for safety improvements on this stretch of Hwy 11. Powers presented his deputation to several Muskoka town councils as well as district. He petitioned for and requested resolutions from the district and regional municipalities lobbying the province to act. Powers said he has experienced traffic on Hwy 11 and has had near misses himself at crossovers between Bracebridge and Huntsville.

Through a Freedom of Information request Powers discovered that 10 years ago the government had done a study on this stretch of road and determined that there was significant improvement which could be made to increase safety.

Following hearing today's MTO announcement Powers said the group is "very pleased that work will begin on Mary Lake Rd. The Ford government is showing it is serious about its commitment to safety on Hwy 11. We look forward to their work on this intersection and to the other six dangerous at-grade intersections between Bracebridge and Hunstville."

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