Five killed, six injured in the collapse of Quebec viaduct

LAVAL, Quebec – Quebec provincial police said yesterday that at least five people were crushed to death in their cars after the collapse of an overpass near Montreal.

The cars were pulled out about 15 hours after Saturday’s dramatic lunchtime accident when a 65-foot stretch of three lanes of a viaduct collapsed, sending several other vehicles crashing onto Highway 19 below.

Firefighters and other workers had to use cranes and other heavy machinery to painstakingly break up the concrete into as many as 18 huge slabs, including a pedestrian sidewalk.

Three people were found in one car and two other bodies were recovered from the other car trapped by the falling concrete in Laval, police spokeswoman Isabelle Gendron said.

The vehicles were crushed so badly in the Saturday afternoon collapse that they barely reached the knees of one firefighter when lifted from under tons of concrete rubble yesterday.

“At this point the rescue operation is completed,” Gendron said, noting that no other vehicles were trapped beneath the concrete.

Drivers on Highway 19 in the Greater Montreal Area slammed on their brakes and watched in horror as the overpass slowly collapsed shortly before 1 p.m.

Police said six people were injured, including two who were listed in critical condition, when a minivan and a motorcycle plunged off the overpass.

Doctors at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal said some of those injured had improved overnight but gave no further details.

One of the injured was counting his blessings the day after the collapse. Robert Hotte was driving over the viaduct when the road in front of him began to disappear.

“I was wondering what the … what is happening,” he told The Canadian Press. “As we went down with the bridge, my first words were to say `Anne-Marie,’ the name of my girlfriend. We went down, falling with the bridge. It was all dark.”