Montreal judge killed in Argentina bus accident

A Montreal man was killed in a bus crash in northeast Argentina, and two other Quebecers were injured.

A Montreal man was killed in a bus crash in northeast Argentina, and two other Quebecers were injured.

Rescue workers inspect one of two buses that crashed on Monday near Resistencia, in the province of Chaco, about 1,000 kilometres north of Buenos Aires. ((Telam/Associated Press) )
The crash, which occurred early Tuesday morning, killed three people and injured 13. No details were available about the nationalities of the other casualties.

Local media reports identified the Montrealer who died as retired Quebec judge Gaston Labrèche, believed to be in his 70s. The Canadian Press appeared to confirm this account, quoting chief judge of the Court of Quebec, Guy Gagnon, as saying Labrèche had died. Lebreche's wife Marcelle was reportedly among the injured.

Labrèche, a native of Amos, Que., about 500 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, practised law for 10 years before serving as a Quebec court judge from 1971 to 1996.

He was known for his humanitarian work with groups like Amnesty International, and he was involved in seeking justice for Zahra Kazemi, the Montreal photojournalist killed while in prison in Iran.

"He was an observer of trials, of political proceedings ... in countries where freedom of expression is not easily tolerated," Gagnon told the Canadian Press in an interview.

"He was very interested in individual liberties, and he did it all of his own accord, at his own cost."

Bus driving in storm

He died after two passenger buses slammed into each other amid strong winds and rain in a storm that blew through the province of Chaco on Tuesday, said local police chief Ricardo Armando Maidana.

A 23-year-old Argentine woman and the alternate driver of Labrèche's bus were the other two people killed in the crash. Maidana said five of the 12 passengers aboard the bus were still in hospital Wednesday, including an Argetine woman with "grave" injuries.

The other bus had no passengers, and the driver suffered no injuries.

Maidana said the Montreal resident's bus was travelling from the town of Salta to the popular tourist destination of Iguazu Falls in the province of Misiones.

Among the injured was Audrey Jobin of Montreal's South Shore. Her boyfriend, Yannick Leblanc, was on the bus. There are no immediate details on the nature and severity of her injuries or those suffered by the other Canadian casualty.

Leblanc told Radio-Canada that at the time of the crash, there was a big storm and strong winds. Both Leblanc and his girlfriend were released from hospital and are preparing to fly back to Montreal.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department told CBC News the accident occurred near the city of Resistencia in northern Argentina. The department, which confirmed that one Canadian had died and two were injured, would not provide further details, citing the Privacy Act. 

An official in Ottawa said consular officials were providing assistance to the injured Canadians.

The accident occurred a day after three Canadian tourists were killed and four injured in a bus crash in Mexico.

With files from the Canadian Press