Highway 15 crash update: Victims identified as witness recalls 'mindboggling' scene
MONTREAL -- Quebec's coroner has identified the two victims who died in a massive pileup on Highway 15 in La Prairie, south of Montreal.
Charles Rivard, 54 and Pierre Boudreau, 69, both from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, both died in the crash that also left 29 people injured, including one who remains in critical condition Thursday morning.
Some 140 vehicles were involved in the incident Wednesday afternoon, the SQ said, with 70 of those vehicles having been damaged.
Police re-opened Highway 15 in both directions around 1:15 a.m. Thursday, the SQ said.
WHITEOUTS A KNOWN ISSUE
Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel said his office had received some letters from citizens urging them to take action. He said they will move swiftly to make changes. He said planting more trees or building a wall were some of the options they would study.
Environment Canada reported strong gusts of wind up to 60 kilometres per hour at the time of the pileup. In places where the snowbanks are higher than the road, the snow was picked up by the wind.
"I understand that it's a sector where you can have strong winds and maybe have some moments of a white-out like it appears yesterday," he said. "We know that the sector has a problem with strong winds. We know that. We will not wait for a report to be tabled in the next month or the next year, we will take action rapidly for next summer to prevent these kind of things from happening."
Traffic analyst Rick Leckner said he wasn't surprised by the location of the pileup.
"My first reaction from yesterday was, 'Oh no, not again.' Because there have been far too many serious accidents in what we call the La Prairie Basin. And this is a situation -- again -- which should have been dealt with long ago," he said. "There are things that can be done. I'm not an engineer. Like a sound barrier or sophisticated snow fences. It's a known problem. It has caused injury and death previously."
FATHER TRIED TO REACH HIS SON
Ken Bathurst spoke to Andrew Carter on CJAD 800 radio Thursday morning, describing the scene his son, Kyle, encountered.
"I was on my lunch hour yesterday and he gave me a call as it happened. He said, 'Dad you've got to come now. There's a massive accident. There are hundreds of cars. Come and get me, come and get me.' He was in super panic mode," said Bathurst, who said he was on the opposite side of the highway to watch the carnage unfold. "It's mindboggling to see the scene first-hand and know that your son is across the highway and you can't reach him.
Bathurst said his son narrowly missed a pileup after an SUV pulled over from the left-hand lane
"He managed to get around it all. He was pretty much clear of it and a little mini school bus came in and side-swiped him and pushed him into the barrier," he said, adding that there were children on the school bus. Bathurst said the driver should be commended, because he would not allow the children to leave the bus, ensuring their safety.
Bathurst also commended first responders, saying they reached the scene quickly and were efficient. It took some more time, he said, for shuttle buses to arrive to ferry those who were unharmed to safety.
"He couldn't even get out of his car when the accident happened. It was a guy from Vermont that actually pulled the door open for him to get out. There was gasoline everywhere and an oil tanker right beside him on the other side of the bus," he told Carter.
Bathurst said his son suffered injuries to his arms from the airbag and to his leg from hitting the steering wheel but is generally physically unharmed.
"He'll survive, it's more psychological at this point," he said.
Bathurst said he and his son both take Highway 15 to work daily, and that he's long seen it as a trouble spot in winter.
"There's not a week that goes by in the winter where we don't see an accident on that section of road. It's terrible," he said.