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Niagara-bound QEW could be closed near St. Catharines for hours due to fuel truck leak

The Niagara-bound QEW remains shut down west of St. Catharines following a collision that left a fuel truck leaking thousands of litres of hazardous cargo into a ditch.

The highway was completely closed in both directions for more than two hours, but the Toronto-bound lanes reopened around 10:20 a.m. However Ontario Provincial Police say the messy spill of dangerous material will necessitate another full closure of the highway both ways in the early afternoon.

“We’ve got lots of issues ongoing right now,” Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said “Cleanup crews, they are going to be tapping into the tanker to start pumping out the remaining fuel that’s in here.”

He warned that “it’s going to be a tough afternoon here in the Niagara region” for anyone using the highway.

The collision happened just before 8 a.m., during the busy morning rush.

LATEST UPDATES as of 12 p.m.

  • Approximately 25,000 litres of fuel spilled from the truck
  • Niagara-bound lanes of the QEW closed at Ontario Street for “foreseeable future”
  • Crews will pump out remaining fuel from truck before removing from scene

Firefighters are pictured working at the scene of a collision involving a fuel truck on the QEW near St. Catharines Friday, January 12, 2024. (Andrew Collins)

Schmidt said three vehicles were involved. One of them was reportedly driving aggressively and cut off a passenger vehicle, which ended up going into a tractor-trailer loaded with fuel and diesel.

“Those two vehicles got tangled up and ended up going into the ditch. The tanker, obviously loaded with dangerous goods, is leaking into the ditch right now,” Schmidt said.

The third vehicle fled the scene.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was extricated from his vehicle by first responders and was taken to hospital. The extent of his injuries was not immediately clear, but he is expected to survive, OPP said.

The driver of the passenger van managed to get out of his vehicle on his own. He was “very shaken up” but not seriously injured, Schmidt said.

THOUSANDS OF LITRES OF FUEL SPILL

Images from the scene showed evidence of a violent collision, with wheels from the tractor-trailer ripped off and resting in a separate area from the trailer, which was also resting in a different spot from the cab.

Schmidt said first responders were dealing with a “dramatic scene” when they arrived as well as “an extreme explosive hazard” in the area, which has now been evacuated.

“The fire department is on scene,” Schmidt said. “They have evacuated local residents in the area and I expect this will continue for the morning for several hours.”

He estimated that approximately half of the tank’s roughly 50,000-litre load had spilled.

“That’s obviously going to require a massive environmental cleanup,” Schmidt said. “While they are doing the drilling through the tanker walls, we will have to do a second shutdown of the QEW both eastbound and westbound here.”

Firefighters are pictured working at the scene of a collision involving a fuel truck on the QEW near St. Catharines Friday, January 12, 2024. (Andrew Collins)

Images from the scene showed firefighters and other emergency workers on-site, as well as the two vehicles in the ditch.

Currently, the Niagara-bound lanes remain closed at Ontario Street because of the collision, OPP said.

The closure is expected to last for several hours.

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