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Dartmouth couple narrowly escape burning vehicle on Cape Breton's Cabot Trail

Flames and smoke our out of a burning vehicle along the Cabot Trail on Friday. Contributed
Flames and smoke pour out of a burning vehicle along the Cabot Trail on Friday. - Contributed
SYDNEY, N.S. —

A Reserve Mines man witnessed more than just the brilliant fall colours when he took a trip around the Cabot Trail last week.

Cotter Oliver and his family were rounding up North Mountain in Pleasant Bay on Friday afternoon when they were greeted by thick black smoke and bright orange flames as a vehicle burned on the side of the highway.

“It was pretty dramatic — it was like something you see on television,” said Oliver, 70, who spoke to the vehicle’s two occupants — a couple from Dartmouth, at the scene.

“I was talking to the driver and his wife — I didn’t get their names — but they’re from Dartmouth. They were down visiting to go his aunt’s 100th birthday in Neils Harbour,” he said.

“He said he thought he saw dust coming up from beneath the car — it started underneath the car. He told us he pulled over on the road there and he told his wife to get out of the car and she started looking for her purse and he said ‘No, no, get out now,’ She did and they both got back a little bit and the next thing the whole car was engulfed within seconds after they left. They’re quite lucky really.”

Cotter Oliver took this photo of a burning vehicle along the Cabot Trail on Friday. Oliver said the couple who were in the vehicle told him they just managed to escape before it burst into flames. CONTRIBUTED
Cotter Oliver took this photo of a burning vehicle along the Cabot Trail on Friday. Oliver said the couple who were in the vehicle told him they just managed to escape before it burst into flames. CONTRIBUTED

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Andrew Joyce said officers from the Cheticamp detachment and firefighters from Pleasant Bay Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene after receiving a call shortly after 4 p.m. Friday. 

He said no injuries were reported.

Oliver said the lack of cellphone coverage in that area of northern Cape Breton was an issue.

He said people at the scene even went to one of the emergency cabins that line the route to try to contact help. A passing motorist then went directly to the fire department, which was about 15 minutes away.

“Apparently the radios in (the cabin) didn’t work so somebody passing through said they would go to the fire department.”

Oliver said there was some confusion among the people watching the fire when there were several loud bangs that were mistaken for explosions.

“It was the tires exploding. My brother was with him and he’s a former fireman. He said that’s what it was — the tires exploded. The gas tank was just after being filled and he said that wouldn’t blow — if it was more empty it would have more tendency to explode because of the vapours,” Oliver said, adding that he’s just happy the couple escaped in time.

“It was just a matter of seconds — it could have been a tragedy there.”

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