Canadian Consulting Engineer

OIQ investigations dropped over De la Concorde collapse

The Quebec Order of Engineers (OIQ) has announced that it will not be laying disciplinary charges in 11 of the 12 cases it has been investigating over the fatal collapse of an overpass in Laval eight years ago.

July 29, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Quebec Order of Engineers (OIQ) has announced that it will not be laying disciplinary charges in 11 of the 12 cases it has been investigating over the fatal collapse of an overpass in Laval eight years ago.

When a 20-metre slab of concrete fell from the De la Concorde overpass in 2006 it resulted in the death of five people who were travelling on Highway 19 below it, and injuries to another six.

The Johnson Commission of inquiry looked into the cause of the collapse but concluded in its report that “no single entity or individual can be assigned the responsibility of the collapse.” However the commission’s report did say that the engineers and contractors (Desjardins Sauriol and Inter State Paving) who oversaw the construction of the 1970 structure had played “an inadequate role” in supervising it.

Now the OIQ has decided to drop its investigations into whether any of the engineers involved in the bridge’s design, construction or maintenance over the next 36 years had breached the Order’s professional code or code of ethics. According to the Montreal Gazette and the CBC, Chantal Michaud, the head of the OIQ disciplinary syndicate said the cases were closed because it was not possible to build an airtight case involving a project whose design went back so far. A Gazette report of July 23 quoted Michaud: “In these investigations we had to go back to the early 1960s … when plans were still drawn up in ink. There was a lot of time and energy devoted to recuperating documents. We analyzed over 30,000 pages, 1,000 pictures, and conducted dozens and dozens of interviews.” Some of the people had since died, he said, and some documents were never found.

The only engineer who is still under investigation is a retired Transport Quebec employee who saw problems with the rebar but failed to do anything about them.

The OIQ’s decision to drop most of the cases drew ire from victims’ relatives. Maria Mercadante, wife of Mohamed Ashraff, who was injured in the bridge’s collapse, told CBC News: “It’s a staple in Quebec — we don’t blame anyone… We just spend money on commissions and the ones who are responsible get away with it.”

In the Gazette, France Leclaire whose ex-husband was killed in the incident, said: “When you’re an engineer, I think you’ve got qualifications. You’re like a doctor. It’s possible for a doctor to make a bad diagnosis, people make mistakes…. But I think a lot of people involved (with the overpass) did not take things seriously.”

Meanwhile the CBC reports that complaints are being filed against three engineering firms related to another roadway incident — the collapse of a 25-tonne concrete slab into the Viger Tunnel in 2011. However, no-one was killed in that incident.

The Johnson Commission’s conclusions over the cause of the de la Concorde collapse found that part of the problem was that the bridge had an unusual design that made inspection difficult. It also found that inferior concrete was used in the construction. Click here for a summary of those findings from October 2007.

Commission reports on causes for Laval overpass collapse


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