St-Jean-Baptiste fireworks cancelled after fatal explosion

Crews are still working to clear debris at the site of a fatal explosion at a fireworks warehouse southwest of Montreal yesterday.

Neighbouring town holds moment of silence to tribute employees killed in blast

The identities of two women found in the rubble after the fire have not been released. (Radio-Canada)

Several Quebec municipalities will be cancelling their annual St-Jean-Baptiste Day fireworks to honour the two women killed in yesterday's fatal explosion at a fireworks warehouse.

In St-Lazare, Chantal Latreille, assistant director of the recreation department, told CBC Montreal's Homerun that the decision was made to cancel the show as a symbol of solidarity.

"We thought it would be the best to lessen [the warehouse's] burden of having to finance a back-up plan in these difficult times," she said.

Blast leaves 2 dead

The massive blast and quick burning fire leveled two buildings Thursday morning at the fireworks warehouse southwest of Montreal, in Coteau-du-Lac.

Several people nearby described feeling an earthquake. The fire spewed thick black smoke into the air that was visible for kilometres.

Several videos taken by witnesses show fireworks shooting out of the building as it is engulfed in fire.

The bodies of two women were pulled from the wreckage after the fire was brought under control.

Francine Lacroix, 47, and Nicole Brisson, 58, were both employees.

Police and workplace health and safety officials are investigating. The cause of the fire hasn't been released.

'Beyond our comprehension'

B.E.M. Fireworks, whose souvenir and firework shop is a familiar site for travellers passing between Montreal and the Ontario border on Highway 20, has been in business for four decades. 

The business' retail store was open today.

CBC's Steve Rukavina said he spoke to one woman at the store who said they had to stay open because it is one of their busiest weekends of the year.

The owner of the company was at the scene Friday morning, but he declined to comment.

The company did issue a statement, describing the incident as "beyond our comprehension."

"B.E.M. is working in collaboration with police to understand what happened," the statement reads.

It thanked the numerous emergency personnel who responded to the scene yesterday and CSST investigators are interviewing witnesses today. They expect that investigation to take several months.

Latreille said the family business, which imports backyard and professional fireworks, has been supplying St-Lazare with fireworks for over 15 years.

To pay tribute to the two women who died in the explosion, the municipality has scheduled a moment of silence instead of its fireworks celebration on June 23 at Bédard Park.

The municipalities of Vaudreuil-Dorion and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield have also cancelled their fireworks celebrations.