Police have charged a 31-year-old New Brunswick man in connection with a fatal collision near St. Patrick’s Channel in Cape Breton.

A man from Truro, N.S. died in the crash this morning on Highway 105.

Police responded to the scene, located roughly 15 kilometres southwest of Baddeck, around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

They say a courier van, two passenger vehicles, and a tractor-trailer were involved in the crash.

“It’s a bit of chain reaction,” says RCMP Cpl. Ron MacDonald. “You have a minor collision which sets vehicles going in the wrong place, and then you have more collisions. That appears to be what happened here.”

The 52-year-old driver of a Pontiac Grand Am was pronounced dead at the scene while a female passenger in the same car was taken by EHS helicopter to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, where she remains in critical condition.

The victim’s name has not been released, pending notification of his family.

The driver of the courier van was taken to the Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck to be treated for non life-threatening injuries.

Witnesses tell CTV News the eastbound van triggered the multi-vehicle crash after it veered across the centre line on a curve in a no-pass zone.

They say it then sideswiped the oncoming tractor-trailer, spun out and smashed into the Grand Am.  

Police say the driver has been charged under the province's Motor Vehicle Act for driving to the left of a solid double line, which carries a fine of $284.91.

The adult male driver of the tractor-trailer was also taken to the Victoria County Memorial Hospital in Baddeck to be treated for non life-threatening injuries.

The adult male driver of a Toyota Corolla was not injured in the crash. Witnesses say he escaped injury by veering into a ditch, just feet from where the jackknifed transport truck crashed.

Meanwhile, the driver of a fifth vehicle carrying shuttle passengers is being hailed as a hero after he managed to steer clear of the crash entirely.

“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” says shuttle driver Jim Close. “I never want to see it again.”

Close was shuttling five passengers in the van, which narrowly avoided the collision when it was brushed by the out-of-control courier van.

“It just happened so fast. I seen the van hit the tractor-trailer, then he came around the tractor-trailer and hit the car directly in front of me,” Close describes of the scene. “I don’t know how I got between them. I got touched by the van. I don’t have any idea how I got through it.”

One of Close’s passengers says his quick maneuvers may have saved lives.

“When that other van hit the side of us, he just kept going,” says shuttle passenger Lorraine Burke. “He swerved out and in and out. Everything was hitting us. He’s an excellent driver.”

The crash shut down Highway 105 for most of the day and hundreds of motorists were forced to take lengthy detours while investigators examined the scene.

The highway has since reopened.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald