One dead in Highway 401 pileup; situation contained

In this Tuesday, March 14, 2017 photo by @XBR_Traffic on Twitter, the remains of several tractors sit on Highway 401 near Lansdowne, Ont. O.P.P. say there were two chain-reaction pileups and several other secondary collisions on the highway. One person has died. (@XBR_Traffic/Twitter via Newswatch Group)

LANSDOWNE – A truck driver involved in a chain-reaction pileup on Highway 401 near here has died at hospital, O.P.P. announced late Tuesday night.

The identity of the male trucker has not been released.

Leeds County O.P.P. also detailed what exactly had happened around 2 p.m. Tuesday between Lansdowne and Mallorytown, revealing that it was not just one crash – but two – plus other multiple collisions.

The two significant ones happened in the westbound lanes – the first involving five trucks and a car, east of the Highway 137 exit, and the second with seven tractor trailers and three vehicles. That secondary crash happened about a kilometer west of the first one.

“There were multiple chain reactions after the fact behind those two collisions. In the same vicinity on eastbound Highway 401 three other tractor trailers were reported to have collisions,” the O.P.P. said.

The site also involved a chemical spill, which has since been contained, according to the Township of Leeds and Thousand Islands emergency response coordination, known as the Community Control Group.

The toxic substance was described by Gananoque police as hydrofluoric acid, an extremely corrosive substance.

Leeds County O.P.P. say seven firemen, three police officers and 17 civilians were exposed to the substance.

In a statement, Township of Leeds and Thousand Islands Public Information Officer Elaine Mallory “all persons with potential chemical exposure have been transported for medical attention.” Their conditions are not known.

In an interview with Brockville Newswatch, Leeds and Thousand Islands Mayor Joe Baptista said the leaking was isolated to one container on the transport truck. “There was one container so it was not an entire tanker but it was contained to one individual container,” he said.

Baptista said over 20 people, including emergency responders, had to go through the decontamination at the fire hall, where people and their belongings had to be flushed down with water.

There were also buses in place to transport the victims and warming stations set up in the township.

Frontenac County paramedics, helping their Leeds-Grenville counterparts, tweeted that three of their employees were exposed to the substance. Frontenac EMS transported 18 patients to Kingston General Hospital.

KGH went to a Code Orange advisory this afternoon to deal with the influx of patients, but that heightened advisory was cancelled as of 8 p.m.

The Ministry of Environment has been called and cleanup crews have arrived on site to clean up the spill, Mallory added in a statement around 5:15 p.m.

As of 6:30 p.m. a Hazmat team was expected to arrive on site shortly, according to Mayor Baptista.

“Residents can be satisfied that all precautions are being taken and professionals are on site and making sure that this is taken care of. We are obviously most concerned about the safety of our residents but also of all the emergency responders on site,” Baptista said.

The mayor said the weather continues to deteriorate and urged people to stay off the road.

The stretch of Highway 401 is known for squall activity off the St. Lawrence River, where another pileup happened near the same area last month.

The roughly 19 kilometer stretch of Highway 401 from Reynolds Road to Mallorytown Road is expected to be closed “indefinitely”. Detours are in place.