Burlington Skyway crash: Driver charged with impaired driving

It's going to be a rough morning in traffic for some drivers in the Greater Toronto Area. Toronto-bound lanes of Burlington's Skyway Bridge remain closed after a truck with a raised trailer crashed into the structure, ripping off steel girders.

Sukhvinder Singh Rai, 34, of Brampton, faces two counts of impaired driving related offences

Witnesses described seeing the truck head up the bridge with its bed up while motorists tried to warn the driver by honking their horns. (Global)

The driver of a large truck that crashed into and damaged the Burlington Skyway — putting a cloud over Toronto-bound traffic ahead of the busy August holiday weekend — has been charged with two impaired driving related offences, according to the Ontario Provincial Police.

Sukhvinder Singh Rai, a 34-year-old Brampton man who was arrested at the scene and taken to the Burlington OPP detachment for breath tests, faces one count of impaired operation of a motor vehicle and one count of blood alcohol level exceeding 80 milligrams while operating a motor vehicle. 

As a result of the charges, Rai's licence has been suspended for 90 days, and he is scheduled to appear in a Hamilton court on Aug. 22, police said. He has since been released from custody. 

The Toronto-bound lanes of the bridge remained closed Thursday night, and will be for “some time," police said, after it was damaged when the truck hit the superstructure that afternoon.

This will be a significant closure- OPP spokesman Kerry Schmidt

Witnesses say the truck drove across the bridge with its bed raised, hitting scaffolding and the bridge itself, which was undergoing scheduled maintenance.

Police have not said how long the lanes will be closed, but Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring tweeted the damage could keep them shut down for days.

"This will be a significant closure," said OPP spokesman Kerry Schmidt. "The superstructure above the deck is damaged."   

"When you see the damage that occurred on the bridge there was a lot of steel and wood and debris that's come down. There's an amazing amount of damage that could have resulted in a fatal collision," Schmidt said. 

Three other vehicles, a transport truck and two cars were also damaged following the collision. 

The damage caused gridlock and massive delays ahead of the afternoon rush hour.

Traffic is rerouted around the Burlington Skyway after a dump truck hit scaffolding and damaged the bridge superstructure. (Dave Ritchie, Special to CBC)
The heavily travelled Skyway spans the western-most tip of Lake Ontario, connecting Burlington on the north side with Hamilton and the Niagara region. The lanes bound for the latter remain open.

An extended closure would affect holiday travellers for the upcoming Civic Holiday weekend and also traffic heading to Toronto for this weekend's Caribbean Carnival.

Traffic signals in Burlington were changed to help improve the flow of traffic around the Skyway, the city said via Twitter.

Concerns about the extent of the damage have also stopped shipping into and out of Hamilton harbour.

Structural engineers were called in to assess the damage. The lanes cannot be reopened until the bridge is inspected, vehicles are removed and girders are repaired, police said. 

Motorists tried to warn driver

Witnesses described seeing the truck head up the bridge with its bed up while motorists tried to warn the driver by honking their horns, but to no avail.

The guy kept going, he was actually going faster- Witness Robert Grimme

"He drove straight into the structure and all the scaffolding on top of the bridge," said Jay Bell of Huntsville, Ont.

"The construction workers up there, they all started coming down the steps of the scaffolding really fast. I've never seen anyone move that fast on scaffolding before. It was just crazy. They jumped from the scaffolding onto the steel structure of the bridge."

The driver did not slow down, though the honking appeared to warn the construction workers of the danger, said witness Robert Grimme.

"The guy kept going, he was actually going faster," said Grimme. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Rai suffered minor injuries.

Shipping affected

The resulting gridlock marooned some of GO Transit's Route 12 Burlington-bound buses and detoured others.

Anne Marie Aikins from GO Transit advised checking the agency's website for the latest information. 

"We are asking people to take the train instead if possible," she said. "Any buses that hadn't gotten on the highway yet can be detoured."

On the water below, the canal under the bridge has been closed as a precaution, said the Hamilton Port Authority.

"In the interest of safety, the canal is closed to shipping traffic pending [the ministry's] assessment of the damage to the Skyway bridge above." said Larissa Fenn, a spokeswoman for the authority. Three vessels were due to arrive in the harbour Thursday night, according to its website. It's unclear if any of the ore-carrying lakers will be able to enter the Hamilton port.

The province is in the midst of a $20-million construction project on the Skyway. Workers are on the second phase of applying anti-corrosive coating to the steel, which should be finished by fall 2016.


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