Heroic man tried to save driver caught in Highway 40 inferno
GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: Carol Bujold hurt his hand while trying to free man trapped in truck
Carol Bujold was driving a 45-foot truck westbound on the A-40, Montreal's Metropolitan highway, Tuesday afternoon when he braced himself for a collision.
His truck hit the vehicle in front of him and then was rear-ended by a tanker truck.
Bujold got out of his truck to survey the scene. When he reached the tanker truck behind him, he heard Gilbert Prince, the driver, screaming, pleading for someone to rescue him.
Bujold tried, as flames licked the tanker that was carrying 45,000 litres of diesel fuel. He was forced to give up. Soon after, those flames overtook the cab in which the other driver was trapped.
Prince died in the inferno.
Bujold hurt his hand but was otherwise physically unharmed, said Jean Carrière, his boss at Montreal-based construction company Givesco. Bujold isn't speaking publicly; his boss is recounting the story on behalf of the company.
Bujold was evaluated at a psychiatric hospital and is now home, Carrière said.
When Carrière spoke to Bujold, he said all the driver could talk about was his failed attempt to save his trapped colleague.
"He told me, 'Jean, I feel so responsible.' I said, 'You did everything you could. You tried, not too many people would have ran in there with a [tanker] truck on fire to try and get the door open.' He's a real hero," Carrière said.
Pleas in vain
In a video taken by a witness, Bujold can be seen walking toward the truck behind him after the collision. When he discovers there is someone inside, he rushes back to his truck and retrieves a crowbar.
Knowing that somebody inside the vehicle is going to die, it's the worst feeling in the world.- Jean Carrière, boss of Carol Bujold, who tried to rescue Gilbert Prince from burning truck
Bujold knew he only had seconds to act, Carrière said. By the time he got the crowbar and started running back to the truck, the fire had already started.
Smoke was taking over the cab. He saw that the steering wheel was more or less pushed up against Prince's rib cage, trapping him inside.
Bujold tried to reach the terrified man from the driver's side, then ran around and tried to pry open the passenger door, to no avail.
"It's a picture and sound I think will stay in Carol's mind for a long time," Carrière said.
Carrière said Bujold was particularly disappointed that while he was frantically trying to save the trapped man, no one stopped to help.
"The whole thing demolished him," Carrière said.
Son stressed out over ordeal
Céline Comtois, Bujold's mother, told Radio-Canada she got a call from his wife about the accident yesterday.
Comtois spoke to her son this morning and says he's stressed out about the ordeal he went through.
"He doesn't feel like he's able to tell the story," she said.
Comtois said she's been fielding calls from people for news about Bujold since they heard about the accident.
She said her son is a man who is always ready to help.
"Oh yes I'm proud of him. I've been proud of him for a long time," she said.
Cause under investigation
Bujold's attempt to rescue his fellow truck driver came as no surprise to his boss.
Carrière said Bujold is a "fantastic guy," the kind of person who hugs his colleagues when he comes to work in the morning.
Bujold, 51, has a wife and a young son. He has taken time off work while he recovers.
"Knowing that somebody inside the vehicle is going to die, it's the worst feeling in the world," Carrière said.
Provincial police say the collision was caused by a vehicle stopped on the highway, but it is still unclear why that truck was not moving.
In all, six people suffered minor injuries in the pileup.
A section of the highway is closed in the westbound direction until further notice, while provincial transportation ministry inspectors assess the elevated structure for damage.
with files from Emily Brass