Residents evacuated, driver dead, in contamination rollover on Highway 63.

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May 22, 2012 | | Shared as an educational material

NORTH BAY – The calm of the Victoria Day Long Weekend was shattered for residents in the Silver Lady Lane and Highway 63 area of the city by a fatal tanker truck rollover Monday resulting in a formaldehyde spill and mandatory evacuation.

North Bay Fire Department Platoon Chief Tim Mainville said the call came in at 8:32 a.m. on May 21, with firefighters from Station One and Station Two responding. “We had about 13 men on site, and then we had to call a Code Yellow and bring in overtime help as well,” Mainville said.

The driver of the truck, later identified as 54-year-old Jocelyn Lahaie from Quebec, was unconscious in the cab when emergency response arrived. He died later Monday afternoon in North Bay hospital. No details on the cause of death have been released.

Details of the accident itself are limited as police have yet to start their investigation.

“Nobody can get near the accident site until the contents have been recovered,” said Mainville the morning after the accident. “Our crews were back out there this morning assisting the hazardous waste clean-up team sent up from Barrie. Everyone is still in self contained breathing apparatus and the fumes are still very strong.”

Mainville says North Bay firefighters will continue to play a supporting role at the site until the tanker has been removed.

When firefighters arrived on the scene Monday morning Mainville, said, “Most of the contents of the tanker were already gone. The truck was upside down and had punctured on the rocks and you could see the route the contents had taken.”

Wearing complete bunker gear to protect from the toxic fumes, the crews had to be rotated out of the site regularly for their own protection

“With the hot weather we had to be careful or we would have had crews dropping on us,” he said.

Four firefighters were taken to hospital for checkups during the day’s events.

The seriousness of the air contamination led to a mandatory evacuation of residents in the area starting at 9 a.m. The Ministry of the Environment was also notified at that time, as was the city’s pollution control officer John Miller.

“We dyked and dammed and did what we could,” said Mainville. Truckloads of sand were brought in to fill the ditches and help contain the spread of formaldehyde.

Despite the crew’s best attempts, some of the contaminant did reach Trout Lake, the source of North Bay’s municipal drinking water.

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