Faulty brake, following distance, cited as causes of deadly Metropolitan crash
Last year's deadly crash on the Metropolitan appears to have been an accident waiting to happen.
Following a lengthy investigation into the collision and fire that killed one man and shut down a major highway for several days, the workers' health and safety board, CNESST, said one of the trucks at the heart of the crash had a recurring problem with its emergency brake.
The crash happened on August 9, 2016, and involved several trucks travelling in the centre lane of the elevated highway in relatively light traffic.
The first small truck, a tanker owned by Bombardier, came to a sudden stop in the middle of the highway. The cube truck immediately behind it was able to come to a halt safely, but the third vehicle in line, an 18-wheeler pulling a heavy load, tried unsuccessfully to change lanes and hit the back of cube truck, knocking that into the first vehicle.
Gilbert Prince, driving an 18-wheeler tanker truck, was unable to stop his rig in time and rammed into the back of the other trailer, knocking the other three vehicles forward.
The impact crushed the engine of Prince's truck and spilled a flammable liquid onto the ground at the same time as the cabin, where Prince was sitting, was crushed.
Within moments the liquid caught fire, enveloping the front of Prince's truck in flames.
One of the drivers involved in the collision tried but was unable to open any of the doors to the cab.
Prince died at the scene, and the fire caused severe damage to the highway, forcing its closure for a day and a half, and subsequent repairs later in the year.
The safety board identified four causes for the collision and Prince's death.
Faulty emergency brake
The first cause was the sudden and unexpected halt of the first truck in the lane and it turns out that particular vehicle had a problem with its emergency brake.
Because of poor maintenance, including significant wear and tear and loose nuts and bolts, road vibrations allowed a door to shift slightly and trip the emergency brake system while the truck was in motion, forcing it to a stop.
Alain Lajoie, a CNESST inpsector, said the company which owned the first truck -- Bombardier -- knew about problems with emergency brakes because they had been tripped several times earlier in the year, including the same stretch of road where this deadly collision occurred.
"Bombardier did not make a follow-up to this situation when it came back to their mechanical garage," said Lajoie.
The second main cause of the crash was Prince's driving.
The CNESST said that if Prince had been further away from the vehicles in front of him he would have been able to stop in time.
Prince was about 31 metres behind the truck in front of him but the CNESST calculated that he would have needed more than twice as much distance -- 76.7 metres -- to come to a halt in time.
The CNESST has since ordered Bombardier to take the truck involved in the crash, along with a second similar vehicle, off the road until the emergency brake system is properly repaired.
The board is also informing the SAAQ, the Sureté du Quebec, and a national committee about the emergency brake problem, because it may affect other small tanker trucks on the road.
Bombardier was given a copy of the report on Tuesday, and it objects to the CNESST's conclusion about the company not taking enough action to deal with the brake problem.
"Upon initial review it appears key facts pertaining to the ... causes are incomplete. We intend to work with the CNESST to obtain or provide clarifications to ensure the utmost accuracy of its findings," wrote Bombardier.
Bombardier said an employee did mention the problem with the brake in January 2016 and that it did take steps to address the problem.
The company checked the mechanism which was causing the emergency brake to lock, but did not check it an highway speed on bumpy roads.
The Crown is still analyzing the results of the CNESST reports and cannot say if it will lay criminal charges.