|From The Ottawa Journal April 12, 1973|
'Brakes failed' driver
PAPINEAUVILLE (Staff) Brake failure. That's the reason given by the 17-year-old driver of a tractor-trailer who leaped from the cab just before it smashed into the third engine of a 54-car freight train on a Highway .8 crossing just east of here. While the front end of the truck disintegrated on impact, hurling the engine more than 100 feet down the tracks, driver Leo Boutet of St. Basil, near Montreal, escaped injury.
Sgt. Andre Leduc of the Papineauville QPF detachment, said the young driver told him that he saw the train coining but that when he tried to stop, he found that he had no brakes. He barely had time to jump from the cab of the truck before it crashed into the heavy engine.
The crash knocked one of the three engines pulling the train off the track, into the nearby home of Normand Allard. More than a dozen cars, including including nine oil-tanker cars and a car loaded with liquified chlorine, were burled about like a child's toys. Three of the 17,000 gallon tankers ruptured, sending their flaming contents spewing over the surrounding area, including the home of Mr. Allard, which was destroyed in the blaze.
About two acres of land immediately east of the crash site was turned into a blackened desert as the burning oil spread.
More than 80 firemen from departments in Gatineau, Thurso, Buckingham,. Montebello, St Andrelinand Papineauville converged on the scene.
Their major concern was that Irhe tanker loaded with 20,000 .gallons of chlorine might rupture and spread deadly gas throughout the area. Pumping water from a nearby creek, the firemen worked feverishly for more than four hours, pouring water on the chlorine tanker to keep its temperature below the point where the gas would have expanded and burst the safety valve on the car.
Other firemen fought the blaze that ripped through the tangled wreckage. It was brought under control shortly after 1 p.m.
Police had evacuated more than 100 families living within a one mile radius of the crash scene.
"The tanker is specially de signed to withstand the stress of a derailment," said an official of Standard Chemical Ltd., the owner. "There wasn't even a rivet blown on the thing," he said. Ross Maitland, Canadian Transport Commission chemical engineer on the site to advise in the handling of the dangerous gas, said "the liquified chlorine turns to yellowish green colored fumes when exposed to air. It mixes readily with water and forms hydrochloric acid," he said. "If breathed into the lungs, death is almost instantaneous," he said.
The only injuries were to the trainman in the second engine, Claude Baril; who suffered a broken wrist and train engineer Claude Beris, who suffered cuts to his face and one arm.
Shortly after 2 p.m., police began to allow the families to return to their homes. But it was after 4 p.m. before Highway 8 was reopened to traffic.
A Standard Chemical official said a tanker truck would probably be brought to the scene to pump the 55 tons of chlorine out of the tanker which lay on its side under a pile of oil tankers.
Several thousand gallons of oil flowed into a creek near the scene and emptied into the Ottawa River, about half a mile away but officials from the Quebec department of the environment were on the scene early in the afternoon to place a barrier m the creek to catch the oil. A neutralizer was sprayed on the oil.
A spokesman for CP Rail said it was expected the wreckage would not be cleared until noon today after which time extensive repairs to the damaged rail ties would have to be carried out.
Passengers travelling CP Rail between Ottawa and Montreal last night and this morning were bused between Ottawa and Montebello and travelled by day liner on the Montebello to Montreal section.
The final irony of the crash. An oil tanker truck travelling on the detour around the crash scene overturned on the St. Hyacinthe Range, and temporarily blocked the detour Wednesday afternoon. The driver was not injured.
From Bruce Chapman (including pictures)
The collision occurred at at 1030; 3 units were on the train; the third unit, 8565, was buried and caught fire from cars landing on top of it. A house, shed and a trailer were destroyed by flames and thousands of gallons of heavy oil were spilled into a creek which flows directly into the