Highway 401 reopens near Lansdowne; cleanup continues

A tractor trailer exits Highway 401 near Mallorytown, Ont. Wednesday, March 15, 2017 after a section of the highway was closed for a series of chain-reaction crashes and a chemical spill on Tuesday. The highway reopened late Wednesday night. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANSDOWNE – A section of Highway 401 between Lansdowne and Mallorytown reopened in both directions late Wednesday night after a series of chain-reaction crashes the day before.

The O.P.P. said there were two crashes on Tuesday afternoon around 2 p.m. — the first involving five trucks and a car near the Highway 137 exit and the second involving seven trucks and three vehicles about a kilometer away.

There were other chain-reaction crashes that resulted from the two major ones, police said.

The primary crash took the life of a trucker, now identified by O.P.P. as Ian Melville, 45, of Hamilton, Ont. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

A truck also sprung a chemical leak in the crash, producing highly toxic hydrofluoric acid. Eighteen people – roughly half of them first responders – had to be treated for exposure.

In all, approximately 28 people had to be treated for various injuries.

On Wednesday morning, traffic was still clogged at County Road 2 and County Road 5 near Mallorytown where scores of tractor trailers were being detoured. The wait for motorists at the exit was at least a half hour.

The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands indicated in a release that cleanup would still be ongoing in the days ahead. The scene has been transferred back to the O.P.P.

Some lanes closures may happen in the coming days, the township said in a statement.

In this Wednesday, March 15, 2017 from the O.P.P. East Region Twitter account, officials get ready to remove the last rig involved in a series of chain reaction pileups on Highway 401, which killed one person. (@OPP_ER/Twitter via Newswatch Group)

“Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) was onsite at 4:30 a.m. (Wednesday) and can confirm that there is no air contamination resulting from the accident. Short-term decontamination is well underway and MOECC will have a long-term plan in place to mitigate any future risk to surface water and environment. This includes water quality testing in conjunction with the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority,” the statement added.

TLTI Mayor Joe Baptista said they could not have handled the situation “without strong partners” through the Emergency Control Group. “We cannot thank them enough for their tireless efforts.”

As far as the crashes, a team from the O.P.P. Technical Traffic Collision Investigation Unit is still conducting an investigation.

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