Que. van-bus crash site flagged as risky



Concerns are being raised about a Quebec highway intersection where five farm workers were killed Wednesday in a deadly crash that recalled a fatal accident a decade ago.

CBC News has learned Quebec's Transport Ministry planned to build a roundabout at the intersection, after a coroner's report on a deadly 2001 collision recommended improving safety measures at the sharp junction.

But documents obtained from the ministry suggest the coroner's recommendations were delayed, despite a 2009 deadline.

Five men died Wednesday at the intersection of Highway 158 and 345 in Ste-Geneviève de Berthier, after their van collided with a school bus carrying children.

The victims were identified as Steeve Larochelle, 32, Sébastien Cormier, 30, Pierre-Luc Martel, 22, Jocelyn Beauchamps, 28, and Gilles Chartier, 26. The men lived in St. Côme and Joliette.

Three other men remain in hospital in critical condition. All worked for Pigeon 2006, a poultry company in central Quebec.

None of the 12 students on the school bus were seriously injured, but several were treated for shock.

Police are still not sure what caused the collision.

"Has the driver fallen asleep, maybe, coming back from work, did he slip and go to the other lane, what were the road conditions ... so everything is going to be looked at," said Quebec police Sgt. Benoît Richard.

It's not clear whether the men were wearing seatbelts.
Intersection flagged after woman killed in 2001

Wednesday's crash is the second fatal incident at the intersection in 10 years.

In November 2001, Louise Brière, 60, was killed when her vehicle and a truck collided at the highway junction, which is notable for its sharp curve.

A cross was erected in her memory at the site — and a coroner's report recommended several measures to help motorists.

Warning signs and flashing yellow lights were installed to improve visibility. But a roundabout, which was recommended by the coroner, was never built.

"You have to understand that a highway project can sometimes take many years to realize," said Transport Quebec spokesman Claude Ouimet.

Brière's brother Jean-Marcel is skeptical. He visited his sister's memorial cross after the Wednesday accident, and lamented what he describes as a needless loss of life.

"As long as they don't modify this intersection, there will be other accidents, that's for sure," Brière said. "It's like we have to wait before more people die, before something is done."

The transportation agency said there is nothing to indicate a roundabout could have prevented Wednesday's collision.

Transport Quebec said preliminary studies on a possible roundabout are underway, but it could be years before it materializes.