Panel investigating fatal overpass collapse in Quebec

| 10/5/2006

The chairman of a panel conducting a public inquiry into the devastating collapse of a Quebec overpass says he will not be playing the blame game.

The overpass in Laval, north of Montreal, was only about halfway through its projected lifespan of 70 years when a 60-foot chunk fell Saturday and crushed several cars, killing five people and injuring six.

Government officials launched the inquiry Thursday, Oct. 5, to focus on the structure itself and the events leading up to the collapse, rather than the media frenzy and finger pointing.

The main questions the three appointed panelists will try to answer involve the events leading up to the collapse of de la Concorde Boulevard over Autoroute 19 in Laval, including witness reports of smaller chunks falling from the structure prior to the collapse.

Canadian and American media are pressing to find out if other such tragedies could occur elsewhere and what their governments are doing to ensure the integrity of all infrastructure.

Panel Chairman Pierre Marc Johnson, and attorney and former leader of the Parti Quebecois political party, told the press Wednesday he’s not interested in a blame game.

“It’s not part of the mandate to pass judgment on the level of resources given in general to transport maintenance in Quebec,” Johnson said during a press conference.

The panelists visited the site Wednesday to begin the arduous task of piecing the event together. The panel will not disclose any working theories until the investigation is complete.

A husband and wife and the husband’s brother, all in their 40s, were killed in one of the crushed cars. A man and woman, both 28, were killed in the other car. Six other people were injured, including one person still in intensive care. All of the families were from Quebec.

Funerals for the victims are scheduled Friday.

Highway 19 in the Laval region remains closed indefinitely, which has disrupted traffic in and around the northern metropolitan Montreal area.