Worst traffic accident in 25 years, witnesses say

Over the past 25 years, engineer Robin Borgia has seen the aftermath of numerous traffic accidents along a busy stretch of Highway 440 in Laval.

But the fiery crash that he witnessed when he looked out his office window on Monday was the most gruesome, by far.

“I saw a car trapped under a tractor-trailer and another large truck behind it,” said Borgia, who works for d’ACE expert-conseil, an engineering consulting firm.

One car was trapped under the first truck and a second was stuck under the right side of the truck.

“Tires began exploding and the fire became very intense,” Borgia said in an interview. “We wondered whether it was propane tanks as well. It all happened very quickly.”

As flames emerged from the trapped vehicle and from the rear of a tractor-trailer, a truck driver jumped into his cab and pulled away to try and free the burning vehicle, Borgia said.

When some of the first police officers and a paramedic arrived, they had to jump a fence near the accident scene to reach the injured motorists, he said. Eventually, a truck driver reversed into the fence to create a gap wide enough for the first responders to race through.

The Sûreté du Québec are asking motorists who witnessed the fiery collision on Highway 440 in Laval on Monday afternoon to contact them.

Four people were killed and 15 injured during the crash near Industriel Blvd., which involved two tractor-trailers and at least seven cars.

One of the heavy trucks caught fire after striking a car in front of it and turning over. The flames spread to some of the other vehicles and black clouds of smoke could be seen several kilometres away.

Several people were taken to hospital, including first responders who were overcome by smoke.

A thick cloud of smoke billowed into the air, and the highway was still closed to traffic into Monday evening, causing traffic jams for several kilometres.

Borgia’s colleague Mario Lehoux said the configuration of the stretch of Highway 440 near the exit for Highway 15 is problematic and dated.

At rush hour, cars are often backed up for 400 metres to take the exit for Highway 15 north. The growth of Laval’s industrial park and the increased population density north of Montreal means the exit lane and service road are often backed up.

“Cars zip in front of trucks to take the exit and they merge too quickly,” he said. “They’re frustrated because they have to wait so long to exit.”

Quebec’s Transport Minister François Bonnardel offered his condolences to families touched by the accident.

Anyone with information about the crash should call provincial police at 1-800-659-4264.

Canadian Press contributed to this report.