June 21, 2000



the article below refers to the previous collapse in this area, the one in 2000.
For updated info, try CBC Montreal or CTV.

I wonder if anybody reading this (Canadians excepted) heard about what happened near Montreal on Sunday morning.

An overpass, which was under construction, suddenly collapsed onto the highway beneath. Somehow only one car was caught in the ensuing chaos but one man died and two were injured.

It happened around 11 AM. There was no earthquake, tornado nor hurricane. Not even a stong wind; at most, a light drizzle. According to a witness, plywood sheets began to fall, immediately followed by concrete slabs. It seems at least six concrete I-shaped beams came crashing down, each weighing about 100,000 pounds.

The overpass (what's left of it) happens to be in my community. It's about ten minutes' drive from my home. The portion that collapsed was a new section being built to widen the road to accomodate traffic for a new development of superstores just off the highway.

I've driven over the old section of that overpass (towards the top in the photo below) thousands of times. Younger Son and his friends have often walked over it too, as it's on the way from his school to the closest mall. I'm seriously creeped out by this.. somehow it's worse when the news trucks are in your (metaphorical) back yard.


So the coroner's inquest is under way, the politicians are busy covering their tracks and preparing to shift blame, the city engineers are busy checking every other inch of overpass in the entire metropolitan area, which is known to have an aging, obsolete infrastructure, and citizens are worriedly peering upwards as they drive. Another chapter is added to Montreal's history and mythology.

Hubby and I heard about this while we were driving (NOT on that road) to Dad's for Father's Day. The first thing that popped into my mind was an image of the San Francisco earthquake of (I think) 1989; a car just driving right off the end of a broken bridge. The second thing that I thought of was the recent pedestrian overpass collapse in North Carolina, after a NASCAR race.

Yes, I heard about that. US news easily crosses the border but for some reason, Canadian news doesn't flow in the opposite direction. It's like some sort of weird biological semi-permeable membrane. Things can get in but they can't get out. This is a long-standing pet peeve of mine, yet I'm still surprised that this news was largely ignored by the US media.*

I can understand (but not necessarily agree with) a lack of interest in Canadian politics, culture, and day to day events but this should have transcended the border, for practical reasons if nothing else. This (obviously) could happen anywhere and should serve as a cautionary tale for other communities. How can you pressure your government to meet vital safety standards, though, if you aren't aware there is a problem in the first place?

If anyone did hear about this, from anything but a Canadian news source, I'd like you to please let me know so I can write to congratulate them and put them on my "A" list of bookmarks.

* I checked the websites of CBS News, ABC News, MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times, all by browsing and searching. The only one that covered it was MSNBC, with a report on Monday (buried in the International/Americas/Canada section) which I was unable to find again today. I did find one report on a British news service, ITN, from which I swiped the photo.

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