LANSDOWNE — A 45-year-old Hamilton man has been identified as the victim of a multi-vehicle collision that led to a chemical spill on Tuesday and closed Highway 401 for more than 24 hours east of Brockville.
Police identified the victim as Ian Meville, a transport-truck driver. Police did not identify the cause of death.
Police confirmed a “serious collision involving transports” along Highway 401 westbound lanes near kilometre marker 675 early Tuesday afternoon in which a corrosive material spilled onto the road and some vehicles were reportedly trapped underneath transport trucks.
Provincial police advised Wednesday night that all lanes were re-opened.
Meaghan Quinn, spokeswoman for Kingston General Hospital, confirmed late Tuesday that said a decontamination bay was opened at the hospital for all those who were exposed to the chemical, noting that the substance had been confirmed as fluorosilicic acid.
The official Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) covering industrial use of this acid says it is irritating to the airways, and can cause skin irritation, redness or swelling. Extended breathing of fumes can cause “burning sensation, coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting.”
It recommends people exposed to it should be taken into the fresh air, and skin should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. If necessary flush the eyes with water for 20 minutes. The MSDS instructions say people may wish to see a doctor if symptoms are severe.
The acid is used in fluoridating water, and in aluminum production.
Twenty-nine patients were brought to the hospital, which declared a “code orange,” meaning non-critical emergency admissions were routed to nearby Hôtel Dieu Hospital to make way for crash casualties.
Thirteen of the injured were first responders, Quinn said.
By 9 p.m., a number of patients had been discharged and others were being held for observation before it was decided whether they would be released or admitted.
Earlier, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands said in a Facebook post that “all persons with potential chemical exposure (have) been transported for medical attention. No residential properties were affected and there is no risk to the general public.”
According to witnesses’ postings on social media accounts, emergency vehicles and fire rescue trucks were being used to take victims who had been exposed to the hazardous substance to an impromptu decontamination centre established at the township fire station in Lansdowne.
Township Mayor Joe Baptista said at the scene “at least 20” people were sent to hospitals from the Lansdowne control centre.
“There was at least one individual in critical condition, and a second individual in serious condition,” Baptista said.
Patients were brought to a control centre at the fire station where they went through a decontamination process.
“(They had) to be completely hosed down. Your clothing and everything is taken. Anything on your person has to be removed,” he said.
Brockville General Hospital spokesperson Abby McIntyre confirmed BGH admitted one person involved in the crash with minor injuries, with the rest of the victims sent to Kingston.
An emergency response in TLTI, led by the township’s ‘community control group,” was initiated around 3 p.m. as first responders were on site and co-ordinating a medical response.
Ottawa Fire Services Hazmat unit — one three designated agencies for hazardous materials incidents for the whole province — was contacted by the Office of the Fire Marshal to assist responders.
At 5:15 p.m., response crews reported the chemical spill had been contained.
“All vehicles have been rerouted and all persons with potential chemical exposure having been transported for medical attention,” said Elaine Mallory, the township’s director of planning.
Cleanup crews had arrived on site by late afternoon to remediate the area of the chemical spill. The Ministry of the Environment was among those on site of the spill.
First responders termed the highway pileup as a “mass casualty” event due to the number of people exposed to the hazardous chemicals carried by the leaking tanker truck.
Anybody who endured even minor inhalation exposure to the substance was being taken to hospital, according to responders.
The chain-reaction collision reportedly involved a dozen or more tractor trailers in the wind-driven blizzard conditions along the Hwy. 401 corridor, along with many passenger vehicle collisions.
Images and social media users’ videos as well as eyewitness reports portrayed several jackknifed tractors across the road or tipped into the median of the highway.