Highway 40 reopens in Dorval after fiery crash

At around 3 a.m., a tractor trailer truck transporting meat products slammed into a road work site, throwing a crew member under the semi just as it went up in flames.

Two highway workers injured when heavy truck slammed into their work site

Nearly four hours after the collision, the heavily damaged and burned vehicles were still on Highway 40 as SQ officers investigated the incident. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Highway 40's eastbound lanes were closed for some nine hours Thursday after a tractor trailer truck transporting meat products slammed into two road work vehicles in Dorval — throwing a 28-year-old crew member under the semi just as it burst into flames.

That man's colleague received second-degree burns pulling him to safety before firefighters arrived to douse the flame, assist the injured men and begin cleaning up the mess of vehicular debris, scattered chunks of meat and spilled fuel.

Nobody died in the dramatic collision, but it is one that will stand out in the memory of rescue crew for years to come, Montreal's fire chief said.

"The first firefighters who arrived on the scene, they said it was a big accident," Montreal fire chief Benoît Martel told CBC News.

"We see a lot of accidents, but one like this is a big one in your career."

Provincial police say the semi's 42-year-old driver, who was slightly injured in the crash, may have been drowsy or even sleeping at the wheel. The police investigation is ongoing.

Transports Québec reopened the highway around noon.

The road closure caused heavy congestion throughout morning rush hour as traffic was detoured to the service road connecting the Sources Boulevard exit to the onramp at Hymus Boulevard, roughly four kilometres away.

Tractor trailer collides with MTQ road crew

Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau said a tractor trailer truck was headed eastbound when it entered a busy construction zone near Sources Boulevard.

Two right-hand lanes were closed and there was a Ministry of Transport (MTQ) crew on site retrieving road cones from the back of a pickup truck, he said.

There was a second MTQ truck following the crew, designed to serve as a shock-absorbing buffer between traffic and the workers.

Due to the collision, drivers on Highway 40 eastbound found themselves in gridlock early Thursday. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The tractor trailer hit the first truck, sending it into the pickup truck. A worker that was in the back of the pickup truck was thrown onto the roadway and under the semi just as it caught fire, Thibaudeau said.

His colleague managed to save him, but his injuries were severe enough that police feared for his life at first. A few hours later, Thibaudeau said the man was stable and expected to survive.

Martel told CBC News that the critically injured worker was hurt by both being thrown from the truck and the subsequent fire.

SQ investigators have met with the trucker, but Thibaudeau said it is too early to say if he will face charges.

Highway closed for investigation, cleanup

Six fire trucks were deployed, Martel said, including a water tanker to ensure there was enough water available.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the burning vehicle quickly. 

Heavy equipment was brought in to clean up the debris on Highway 40 Thursday morning. (Charles Constant/Radio-Canada)

There were no hazardous materials on board the truck, but there was a substantial amount of meat that was thrown from the vehicle in large pieces, he said.

The semi's box was destroyed by the fire and the two other vehicles were substantially damaged in the collision. Heavy equipment was brought in to clean up the mess.

Thibaudeau said two SQ collision specialists were brought in to investigate the incident alongside Quebec's workplace health and safety board (CNESST).

A guard truck, deployed by the MTQ to protect road crews as they collected cones, was severely damaged in the collision. (Radio-Canada)

Workers' association calls for increased police presence

Installing traffic cones from the back of a truck is still the fastest, most efficient way to reserve highway lanes, Jean-François Tourigny told Radio-Canada Thursday. He is the spokesperson for Quebec's association of road sign workers.

Crews have a limited time to install and retrieve the cones, he said, and they could be penalized for delays.

"We work under pressure," Tourigny said.

Three trucks were involved in the collision early Thursday, closing Highway 40 in Dorval. (Alain Beland/Radio-Canada)

Signs are not enough, he said, and, instead, more police surveillance is needed. He blamed a lack of police personnel and called on the Minister of Transport to take action.

"Do not wait until there is a death," he said.

With files from Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada