Families remember Heron Road Bridge disaster

Flags flew half-mast across Ottawa Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of anniversary of the largest workplace disaster in Ontario's history.

Flags flew half-mast across Ottawa Thursday to mark the anniversary of the most deadly workplace disaster in Ontario history.

Nine men were killed and more than 60 were injured on Aug. 10, 1966, when a section of the Heron Road Bridge collapsed during construction.

Four decades later, friends and family of the men, along with a piper, gathered at a memorial located on the southwest side of the busy bridge that spans the Rideau River.

Nine roses were laid, one for each man killed, followed by a minute of silence.

'Everything went black'

The disaster changed Mike Lecuyer's life. Forty years ago, he was an 18-year-old on just his second day on the job.

"I was looking toward the west," he recalled Thursday. "And I noticed some four-by-fours were starting to topple … and all of a sudden, boom, and this incredible roaring sound and everything went black. Of course, you couldn't see because of all the wet cement and the dust that was flying around."

Lecuyer managed to dig himself out, but the accident left him so shaken that he never returned to construction work.

Claudette Newton remembers that day, too. She lost her father Omar Lamadeleine in the disaster.

Newton said the memorial "really helped me, made me very happy. And I think for my mum, it's the greatest gift for her to have all her family here."

An inquiry found there had been insufficient bracing of bridge supports as concrete was being poured. The inquiry's recommendations have resulted in stricter rules and regulations for construction projects.

Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council, says the regulations are something officials pay close attention to — and in most cases the minimum requirements are far surpassed.