Two people are confirmed dead in a crash that involved about 200 vehicles on Highway 15 in La Prairie south of Montreal, provincial police say.
The confirmation came from the Sûreté du Québec, which said the victims are two people who were trapped in the wreckage near a diesel spill.
Whiteout conditions likely triggered the massive pileup that sent a dozen people to hospital with minor to serious injuries.
The crash occurred around 12:30 p.m. on a stretch of the highway that runs along the St. Lawrence River. The pileup of vehicles extended for about a kilometre.
Transport Minister Francois Bonnardel said the pileup took place in an area where heavy winds come off the river, creating sudden blizzard-like conditions.
“People were driving, there were strong winds … and, suddenly, you couldn’t see anything,” Bonnardel said in Quebec City. “And then, well, the pileup started.”
Two snow removal operations took place in the area in the hour before the crash, he noted.
Bonnardel said the highway isn’t known for particular safety issues and 65,000 vehicles use the southbound part of it on a daily basis.
“No coroner’s report relating to winter viability (of the area) has been produced for at least 20 years,” Bonnardel said.
The transport minister said he’ll await the results of an investigation before deciding if any particular measures need to be taken.
Police spokesman Sgt. Stephane Tremblay said about 50 vehicles were able to drive away from the collision, but 75 others would need to be towed. Numerous vehicles were mangled, including several large trucks.
About 150 people were taken by bus to a nearby community centre for treatment and to be picked up.
Tremblay said police crash experts will study what caused the pileup.
A school bus was also involved, but none of the high school students on board were injured, said Andree Laforest, the province’s acting public security minister.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press