The Ministère des Transports is blamed by a coroner after the death of a young father who struck a giant pothole, seven meters long on Highway 30, in Montérégie.
According to coroner Paul G. Dionne, Ihor Horbanov had no chance when his vehicle plunged into the pothole on March 11, 2019. The hole was so large that it took almost ten tonnes of asphalt to patch it up after the accident.
However, the department had known for weeks that major holes had been dug on Autoroute 30 east near Verchères. Thus, a month earlier, there had been seven punctures and tows in one day in the same place. Three days before the fatal accident, departmental employees had dumped three tonnes of asphalt into the pothole located under the Rang du Brûlé viaduct that spans the highway.
Despite the gravity of the situation, the coroner concluded that the department had made no follow-up between the time of the work and the accident.
“We made a major repair on March 8, and we did not follow up until the time of the fatal accident on March 11!” At this time, there is significant damage to the roadway and will require up to 9.73 tonnes of filling! Exclaims the coroner, marking his astonishment with exclamation marks in his report. During the collision, Ihor Horbanov was driving towards Brossard with his wife and two children. He moved into the left lane to avoid a departmental signal truck that was already on site for another car that had suffered the same pothole.
Mr. Horbanov in turn hit the pothole. Unfortunately, by losing control, the driver’s door sank into Transport Québec’s vehicle. The driver suffered a violent head trauma and his death was confirmed less than two hours later at Charles-Le Moyne Hospital.
The rest of the family escaped with minor injuries.
Better monitored potholes
Coroner Dionne recommends a new approach to monitoring potholes, using geolocation in particular. The department has already started to change the way it does business. Pothole tracking will be computerized and will allow for closer monitoring of potholes deemed extraordinary.
This system will be complementary to the reports made by motorists with the 511.
Patchwork was done over a length of 100 meters at the accident site last summer. A ten-kilometer repair project is being studied between Contrecœur and Verchères.
Excerpts from Coroner’s Report Paul G. Dionne
► Field observations and witness statements show that these two accidents are secondary to a loss of control of the motor vehicle in a series of potholes and inadequate maintenance of the roadway.
► The pothole extends over almost 7 meters in length. The water level in the pothole reaches 9 cm in places.
► This segment is problematic. Many punctures had been noted by the police in the preceding weeks. The MTQ then intervened to repair the roadway.
► There was no event reported to the MTQ from March 8 until the time of the accident. After the accident, the MTQ carried out an emergency repair of the roadway with 9.73 tonnes of asphalt.
A disaster foretold
- February 5 : A total of seven punctures and tows are reported on highway 30 west in the rang du Brûlé sector, at the border of Contrecœur and Verchères
- From February 5 to March 8 : The Ministère des Transports carries out several clogging operations in the sector.
- 8 mars : More than three tonnes of asphalt are used to plug the pothole under the viaduct.
- 11 mars : Around 11:45 a.m., the first vehicle lost control by hitting the pothole. A vehicle from the Ministère des Transports is dispatched to the scene to protect the scene of the accident. At 1 p.m., the vehicle driven by Ihor Horbanov hit the same pothole and skidded. He finishes his race in the vehicle of the Ministry of Transport. He was transported to Charles-Le Moyne Hospital where he died at 3:23 p.m.
- 12 mars : A virtual autopsy makes it possible to determine that the driver has suffered a head injury. He also has broken ribs and pelvis. The Department of Transport clogs the pothole with 9.7 tonnes of asphalt.
The small family threatened with eviction
The death of Ihor Horbanov had dramatic consequences for his wife and children, who are now at risk of being deported from Canada.
The small family of Ukrainian origin settled in Quebec in 2018 after the man obtained his worker visa. He had landed a job as a machinist in a factory in Sorel-Tracy where he was much appreciated.
However, by losing his life, his worker visa has lapsed. His wife, who also had the right to work under this work visa, had to stop working last January.
Anna Horbanova also lost her access to French courses and her public health insurance coverage. She has applied again for a visa to return to work, but while waiting for a response, she is threatened with having to leave the country within three months.
“If the hole (on the highway) had been repaired, none of this would have happened,” laments the lady who dreamed of starting a new life in Canada.
Her two sons, Hlib and Kyryl, have integrated well in Quebec and she does not see herself returning to her country of origin where significant tensions remain between pro-Russians and pro-Ukrainians.
The woman is now trying by all means to be accepted as an immigrant, especially for humanitarian reasons. With the help of a friend, she wrote several letters to the authorities and had a meeting with her local deputy.
She has also had to work hard since the death of her husband. Until January, she held a job in a factory which she had to leave after the expiration of her husband’s worker visa. She now lives only on benefits from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec.
Not to mention that she had to overcome the shock of the accident. For weeks, she kept thinking about her husband and lost a lot of weight. If things are better today, certain situations remind her of her bad memories, especially when she goes to the scene of the accident.
“I am now taking driving lessons, but every time I hear an ambulance, I freeze, I have flashbacks of the accident,” she says.
Reading the coroner’s report plunged her into bad memories. She could see how her husband suffered before he passed away.
However, apart from the police officer who took her testimony, she had no contact with people from the Department of Transport, let alone apologies for the poor road maintenance that caused the accident.
“Even if they apologize, it won’t bring my spouse back to me,” she concludes.