Drivers were trapped overnight in freezing temperatures when a tractor-trailer blocked a highway in Montreal.

Drivers were trapped overnight in freezing temperatures when a tractor-trailer blocked a highway in Montreal.
Photo Credit: Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada

Outrage that stranded motorists waited 13 hours for rescue

We told you about the big storm that hit Montreal Wednesday and Thursday and that 300 motorists were stranded on a highway, but today we learned that some were in their cars for 12 or 13 hours before being rescued. There are calls for the transport minister to resign over this, and Montreal’s mayor is demanding answers.

VIDEO COURTESY CBC

Highway is not remote

This highway is not in the middle of nowhere. It is a major artery that was blocked by an accident involving a tractor-trailer that occurred shortly after 6 p.m. It was blocked in only one direction and frustrated motorists could see cars moving freely in the other direction.

Stranded motorists called the emergency number, 911. Patrol officers arrived and called for plowing and towing services, but by then the road was blocked with vehicles and the highway was closed.

City not informed motorists were stranded

The Department of Transport told city staff that the highway was closed at 11:50 p.m. but did not say that vehicles were trapped with people in them. Over time, more than 300 people called for help but it was not until 3:30 a.m. that the city was informed that people were stranded.

Luckily, firefighters had, on their own, decided to act and, at 4:30a.m., came to get people out. By then it was -8 C with a wind chill of -19. Shortly after, a lane was provided on the other side of the highway for cars to finally move through.

Some vehicles abandoned

Overnight, one diabetic man had to abandon his car because his blood sugar was low and other people left when their cars ran out of gas and it got very cold. There were children in some cars. Some people left their vehicles to see if others were okay and to offer snacks or water.

Montreal is a city which gets snow every year and is well equipped to deal with it. Even in the face of this record snowfall, it is incredible that people could have been stranded for so long. The public security minister says there was a communication breakdown, but he has promised to find out more about why this happened. There are calls for an independent inquiry.

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One comment on “Outrage that stranded motorists waited 13 hours for rescue
  1. Norbert S. says:

    This tragedy could have easily prevented with a system as used in Germany. There, anytime there is a situation that affects the flow of traffic, due to Construction or an accident, the Radio program that may be playing on someones radio will be interrupted to transmit the message informing of the situation.
    I can’t remember if this is country-wide, or provided by every station, but should be an easy addition to all new cars. Cars now are outfitted with so many electronic gadgets, but all just for entertainment or other gimmicky features.
    How difficult would it be for the manufacturer of cars in connection with radio stations to create a radio system that would automatically activate and interrupt the current radio program – even if turned off – to announce potential traffic problems or hazards.