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Montreal mayor vows answers after three killed in snow-truck mishaps

MONTREAL - Three elderly Montreal pedestrians were killed in horrific fashion in two separate accidents Tuesday, crushed under the wheels of snow-removal vehicles.

MONTREAL - Three elderly Montreal pedestrians were killed in horrific fashion in two separate accidents Tuesday, crushed under the wheels of snow-removal vehicles.

A couple in their 70s died minutes apart after being struck by a dump truck in the morning as they crossed a busy intersection.

And in the afternoon, a 76-year-old woman was killed instantly when she was hit by another snow-removal vehicle. Earlier, city police had reported the victim to be a male in his 40s.

In both cases, the vehicles and the pedestrians had green lights and the people were killed as the trucks turned right.

Police investigators spent much of the day attempting to re-create the tragic setting which saw the unnamed couple caught under the wheels of the vehicle as a handful of witnesses watched in horror.

At least four people had to be treated for emotional shock - including the driver of the truck who police say likely did not see the couple as they crossed busy Sherbrooke Street.

Witnesses said the man hopped out of the cab and was horrified when he realized what had happened.

"The driver of the truck got out, he looked around like he was looking around like he was worried about something," said Annie Rivard, an eyewitness who was leaving nearby Notre-Dame Hospital when she noticed the truck.

"When he realized what happened, he grabbed his hair and just dropped to the ground and I knew my fears were confirmed."

Mayor Gerald Tremblay promised police investigations will be carried out as quickly as possible.

"These type of events are true tragedies, it is very difficult for me to find the words to express the emotions I'm feeling right now," Tremblay told a news conference at city hall.

"It is important to point out that every year in a systematic fashion that boroughs receive safety guidelines regarding snow-removal operations. They are designed to ensure the security of citizens and our employees."

Tremblay also pointed out that the vehicles involved in both accidents were operated by private subcontractors and not by city employees.

Four Montreal pedestrians have now died in accidents involving snow-clearing vehicles since December in a winter that has been marked by heavy snowfalls followed by large-scale cleanup operations.

In the first accident, ambulance service spokesman Bart Panarello said the71-year-old woman suffered major injuries and cardiac arrest and was rushed to the hospital across the street.

She died shortly after her arrival.

"When we got there she was also crushed under the wheels so we had to have the fire department help us move the truck," Panarello said.

Her husband, 72, was already dead when technicians arrived, Panarello said.

Montreal police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux says investigators who talked to witnesses determined that both the truck and the couple had a green light.

"So far nothing leads to (criminal accusations) but the investigation is in its infancy," Lemieux said.

"There could be Highway Code violations - principally the one that gives pedestrians the right of way."

The truck was taken in for mechanical tests.

Police were investigating the death of the other victim, which occurred about 2:30 p.m.

Few details were available, but it appears that the pedestrian had the right of way, said Const. Olivier Lapointe.

"At first (the driver) didn't know what she hit, she thought she'd hit something and then she went and looked and suffered an enormous shock," Lapointe said.

Tremblay offered his condolences to the families of the three victims.

"I want to reassure the families (of the victims) and all Montrealers that the city and the borough will collaborate in the investigation and the search for information that will permit us to clear up the circumstances surrounding this accident," Tremblay said in a statement before the second tragedy occurred.

He also advised all Montrealers to be careful while clearing crews do their jobs.

 
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