Bridge Disasters in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Bridge Disasters in Canada

There have been several fatal bridge disasters over the course of Canada’s history, some during construction, others after a bridge was in use for some time. The following is a chronological account of the worst of these tragic events, including Canada’s most fatal bridge disaster, the 1907 collapse of the Quebec Bridge. (See also Highway Disasters; Railway Disasters.)

Québec Bridge Disaster

Point Ellice Bridge Disaster

Of the several bridges that have been built at Point Ellice to cross the harbour of Victoria, British Columbia, a wood and metal four-span structure built in 1885 was too weak for tramlines that were later built across it (see Streetcars). Poor maintenance weakened the structure further. On 26 May 1896, during celebrations for Queen Victoria's birthday, one span fell out, taking a loaded streetcar with it. The accident resulted in fifty-five deaths.

Quebec Bridge Disaster

Construction on the Quebec Bridge, which crosses the St. Lawrence River and connects Québec City and Lévis, officially began in 1900. On 29 August 1907, when the bridge was nearly finished, the southern cantilever span twisted and fell 46 m into the St Lawrence River. Seventy-five workmen, many of them from Kahnawà:ke (a reserve to the south of Montreal), were killed in this bridge disaster. (See also Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk); Reserves in Quebec). An inquiry established that the accident had been caused by faulty design and inadequate engineering supervision. Work was resumed, but on 11 September 1916 a new centre span being hoisted into position fell into the river, killing 13 men. The bridge was completed in 1917 and the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) officially opened it on 22 August 1919.

Second Narrows Bridge Collapse

On 17 June 1958, a span from Vancouver's Second Narrows Bridge collapsed during construction. The collapse caused workers to fall into Burrard Inlet and took 18 men to their deaths. A diver also died while trying to recover the dead. It was later concluded that design errors had been made by bridge engineers. (See also Second Narrows Bridge Collapse.)

Second Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1958

In 1994, the bridge was renamed the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing in honour of the workers who died during the bridge’s construction.

Heron Road Bridge Collapse

Ottawa’s Heron Road Bridge collapsed during construction on 10 August 1966. The accident killed nine men and injured nearly 60 workers. It was later found that the bridge was insufficiently supported while the concrete was being laid.

To commemorate the victims of the disaster, the Heron Road Bridge was renamed the Heron Road Workers Memorial Bridge in 2016.

De la Concorde Overpass Collapse

On 30 September 2006, the de la Concorde overpass, in Laval, Quebec, collapsed. At around midday, a 20 m section of the bridge fell to the highway below, crushing the vehicles beneath it. The collapse killed five people and wounded six others. Poor design, construction and management of the bridge were at fault.

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