Collisions involving about 30 vehicles on a highway east of Toronto left one person dead, sent 28 others to hospital and caused a chemical spill that prompted road closures on Tuesday.
Ontario Provincial Police said their investigation revealed there were two separate collisions that happened at about the same time on Highway 401 near Kingston, Ont., because of icy roads and blowing snow.
Const. Sandra Barr said the first collision happened in the westbound lanes at about 2 p.m. just east of Highway 137 and involved five tractor trailers and one car. The second collision was also westbound, about one kilometre away from the first, and involved seven tractor trailers and three vehicles.
Police said there were other crashes that then took place.
“There were multiple chain reactions after the fact behind those two collisions,” Barr said in a news release. “In the same vicinity on eastbound Highway 401 three other tractor trailers were reported to have collisions.”
Police said one of the transport trucks involved in the collisions was leaking a toxic substance, prompting the evacuation of the immediate area around it.
Barr said the driver of the truck was sent to hospital by ambulance, but succumbed to his injuries.
The first responders who came to the driver’s aid were sent to hospital for decontamination, she added.
Kingston General Hospital spokeswoman Meagan Quinn said that a total of 29 people were treated at the hospital after the collisions, including the one fatality.
Quinn said a decontamination bay was opened at the hospital for all those who were exposed to the chemical, noting that the substance had been confirmed as fluorosilicic acid.
Quinn said 13 first responders underwent decontamination and were being held for observation as a precaution.
“Exposure to the chemical could cause irritation to the nose, throat, respiratory system, irritation, redness or swelling of the skin and severe eye irritation,” Quinn said.
The hospital was under a “code orange” after the crashes, meaning non-critical patients were temporarily re-routed to the nearby Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston.
“We had been asking the community and individuals with non-emergency care needs to go to Hotel Dieu,” Quinn said Tuesday evening. “We are removing that now and we are accepting all cases in the emergency room.”
Quinn said some patients were being discharged from the hospital by Tuesday night.
Police said homes around the highway did not have to be evacuated after the chemical spill, with Barr noting that the evacuation was only applied to the highway itself.
She said the east and westbound lanes of Highway 401 will be closed to allow for the investigation, and detours have been set up.
Poor weather conditions were also blamed for a highway pile-up south of Montreal.
There was no immediate word on the number of people injured in that crash at about 3:30 p.m. on Highway 10 in the Magog area.