One dead following vehicle pile-up, chemical spill that closed stretch of major Ont. highway
Jeff Lagerquist, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 3:38PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 14, 2017 9:58PM EDT
One person has died in hospital following a highway collision involving at least 30 vehicles near Kingston, Ont. that caused a highly toxic chemical spill, and required dozens to undergo decontamination treatment on Tuesday.
The driver of one of several tractor trailers caught in the pile-up died of his injuries, according to Const. Sandra Barr of the Ontario Provincial Police.
Kingston General Hospital did not provide further details, saying only that the coroner has been called in to investigate. The hospital remains under a “code orange,” which indicates an “external disaster.”
A total of 29 patients were admitted to Kingston General from the scene of the accident. Thirteen were emergency first responders who underwent decontamination and were held for observation as a precaution. Some have been discharged and sent home.
Some non-critical emergency patients were re-routed to nearby Hotel Dieu Hospital..
One of the transport trucks involved in the collision on Highway 401 was carrying an unidentified hazardous material that could turn into hydrofluoric acid if exposed to heat, according to a the Gananoque Police Service. The pileup happened around 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
The substance is said to be highly corrosive and dangerous if it comes in contact with skin, lungs, or eyes. Authorities say they have contained the spill, but have not outlined how long the clean-up effort is expected to take. No evacuation was required.
Earlier on Tuesday, Barr said three police officers, five firefighters, and 17 civilians were taken to nearby hospitals for decontamination. She said one driver was also rushed to hospital with injuries, but she did not know the extent of the injuries at the time. She later clarified that seven firefighters were treated in hospital.
Joe Baptista, the mayor of Leeds Township, told CTV News Channel all of the people who came in contact with the dangerous liquid have been removed from the scene for emergency decontamination treatment.
He said there is currently no risk to the general public, and no residential properties were impacted.
“This could have been much worse,” he said. “Had there been a fire involved with the chemical, it would have been concerning.”
The transport truck carrying the dangerous chemical was said to have been loaded with as much as 14,000 litres of the liquid.
Baptista said the truck’s contents were held in a number of small containers, which prevented a larger spill. Previous reports suggested the majority of the chemicals on board leaked onto the highway.
Barr did not comment on what caused the series of accidents that took place in the westbound lanes. However, she confirmed “whiteout conditions” persisted along the highway.
“The primary collision … involved five tractor trailers and one car,” Barr said in a media release Tuesday night. “The secondary collision was also westbound, about one kilometre west of the first, and involved seven tractor trailers and three vehicles.”
Barr went on to explain there were “multiple chain reactions” after the fact behind those two collisions.
“Blizzard and whiteout conditions for sure were a factor,” said Baptista.
Highway 401 – the busiest highway artery in Canada – is closed in both directions east of Kingston.
As many as 15 tractor trailers were said to have been involved in the crash.
One containing live cattle remains at the scene, waiting for another truck to transport the animals, according to Barr.
Detours are in place. The highway was expected to reopen within six hours. However, the OPP now says that timeline is unknown.
Local tow truck companies have confirmed to CTV News that they have not been allowed to access the crash scene.
‼️HWY 401 between Mallorytown and Lansdowne remains closed after multiple collisions. Hazmat incident ongoing. Avoid area‼️ pic.twitter.com/9IWILp8bwd— XBR Brockville (@XBR_Traffic) March 14, 2017