Four and a half years after the explosion of a tanker truck on the Metropolitan highway, the coroner concluded that the death of truck driver Gilbert Prince was “accidental” and “certainly preventable”. It therefore recommends launching an awareness campaign concerning the safe distance between vehicles.
This tragic accident which occurred on August 9, 2016 in the heart of Montreal left an impression because of the striking images of the monster pile-up involving two tankers in particular. Trapped in his cabin, the truck driver Gilbert Prince died of suffocation in the violent blaze.
Coroner’s investigative report Me Stéphanie Gamache, made public Tuesday morning, does not however make new revelations on the circumstances of the accident. The report takes up large parts of the CNESST’s exhaustive investigation report from June 2017.
At approximately 3:55 p.m. that day, a Bombarder refueling tanker came to a stop abruptly on the center track of the Metropolitan near Lajeunesse Street. A cube truck comes to a halt behind the tank truck, but a trailer truck hits the cube truck full force. It was at this moment that a fourth heavyweight, the tanker truck driven by Gilbert Prince, collided with the vehicle in front of him.
Gilbert Prince’s truck was 31 meters from the third truck. Insufficient distance to avoid collision. Like the CNESST, Coroner Gamache concludes that the “insufficient distance” between the two trucks contributed to the accident. “This contributory element constitutes an unfortunate and fatal driving error for an experienced truck driver,” said the coroner.
This is why Me Gamache recommends that the Société l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) launch an awareness campaign among the population and the heavy vehicle industry in particular “in order to remind everyone of the importance of respecting a sufficient distance between road users at all times, summer and winter ”.
The wear and “deficient” maintenance of the tightening bolts of the Bombardier tanker truck represent an element of “major importance” which contributed to the death of Gilbert Prince, adds the coroner. It was precisely this faulty device allowing the brakes to be applied to the fuel loads that caused the sudden stop of the Bombardier truck. This type of tanker is normally used on airport tarmac, but can be driven on the highway on occasion.
“Turning a blind eye to this recurring problem creates a potentially dangerous situation which, in fact, materialized on August 9, 2016,” she concludes. In fact, the Bombardier truck had stopped four times during the only two other trips of the truck in 2016. The CNESST concluded that Bombardier had not done any adequate follow-up to correct this problem before the tragic accident.
“Different options were however available for the airline company. A warning light and a bypass mechanism for the interlocking brake device could have been installed on the refueling tanker, as is the case with the other more recent truck of the aeronautical company ” , writes the coroner.
Me Gamache does not make any recommendation to this effect, however, since Bombardier has since put this type of truck in storage. Moreover, Transport Canada considers that it is not necessary to modify its standards on this subject, since the truck involved “does not reflect current practices in the industry”, adds the coroner.
The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) decided in March 2019 not to lay any criminal charges in this case.