‘We all just felt sick to our stomachs’: Investigation begins into massive crash near Montreal

Click to play video: 'Investigation continues after Highway 15 crash on Montreal’s south shore'
Investigation continues after Highway 15 crash on Montreal’s south shore
An investigation is underway after a massive multi-vehicle collision on Highway 15 in La Prairie. Global's Phil Carpenter reports – Feb 20, 2020

Quebec’s transport minister is urging action after two people were killed and 29 others were injured in a multi-vehicle crash on Highway 15 south of Montreal.

“We have different options and we will see what we can do to prevent these kinds of accidents next year,” François Bonnardel told reporters on Thursday outside the provincial legislature.

The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) is still investigating the cause of the collision, which occurred on Wednesday afternoon and involved nearly 140 vehicles. Of the 29 injured, one person remains in critical condition.

Bonnardel said it is possible that blowing winds off the St. Lawrence River created whiteout conditions but that the stretch of the highway hasn’t been deemed dangerous by authorities.

“The sector hasn’t had more accidents,” he said.

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Quebec’s coroner’s office has confirmed that Charles Rivard, 54, and Pierre Boudreau, 69, were the two victims killed in the crash. They were from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

The collision led to a code orange at three area hospitals to accommodate the influx of patients. Ambulances made at least two dozen trips to bring drivers and passengers to receive care.

“I just remember a bunch of stretchers coming in and out,” said Jack Sandberg, who was in the pileup. “A lot of people had braces on their necks.”

The extent of the crash was so severe that first responders from nine municipalities on Montreal’s south shore were called in to assist and help free drivers and passengers from their cars.

The stretch of highway near La Prairie, just outside of Montreal, reopened to traffic around 1 a.m. on Thursday — more than 12 hours after the pileup occurred.

‘We just felt sick to our stomachs’

Spencer Jacob was driving back to New York from Montreal when he hit the snow squall on Highway 15.

They pulled over because they were worried about getting into an accident and pulled the car over. After being clipped by another car, Jacob said they called police.

“The ambulance got there for us and they parked in front of us to keep us safe and that’s when another car came down and just flew into the back of the ambulance truck,” he said.

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A fireman walks past a massive pileup involving numerous vehicles on the south shore of Montreal in La Prairie, Que. on Wednesday, February 19, 2020. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The collision then quickly triggered a multi-vehicle pileup so Jacob and his friends had to exit the car by the sun roof. They stood on a snowbank, trying to warn other drivers as cars crashed into one another.

“We were just watching as all these crashes happening in front of our eyes,” he said. “We all just felt sick to our stomachs for all these people being hurt and all these that are being crushed.”

The group was picked up by police officers and taken to a community centre. Jacob said he just hopes everyone is OK.

La Prairie mayor worries about stretch of highway

As the investigation begins, the mayor of La Prairie said he believes the area is dangerous due to the number of accidents local firefighters are called to on Highway 15.

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“They answer close to 50 calls a year,” Donat Serres told Global News.

Serres wants the province to take a closer look at a fence installed to protect cyclists along the highway as a possible contributing cause of the crash. He said the snow piles up high against the fence and when it gets windy, he said it blinds drivers.

“It’s directly in the windshield,” he said.

Serres claims he has asked the transport ministry to look at the fence in the past. When the fence is removed, blowing snow doesn’t become an issue on the highway, according to Serres.

Click to play video: 'Major multi-vehicle crash involving nearly 200 cars outside Montreal'
Major multi-vehicle crash involving nearly 200 cars outside Montreal

with files from Global News’ Alessia Simona Maratta, Gloria Henriquez, Phil Carpenter and the Canadian Press

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