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Canada Workers Check Bridges, Overpasses

October 3, 2006

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) _ Engineers were inspecting 20 bridges and overpasses that the government determined needed further review after an overpass collapsed north of Montreal, crushing five people to death.

The inspection process was expected to be concluded sometime Tuesday.

The Quebec government has ordered a public inquiry into the tragedy, which will be headed by former Quebec premier Pierre Marc Johnson.

There appeared to have been some advance warning signs of trouble with the overpass in Laval before Saturday’s collapse, which also injured six people.

One witness told TVA television network that he noticed the road had sunk an inch or two when he drove on the overpass minutes before the collapse and he called emergency dispatchers.

Transport Quebec, the province’s transportation ministry, also heard about an hour before the accident that some pieces of concrete were falling off the overpass, said spokeswoman Josee Seguin.

She said Transport Quebec then issued an advisory to traffic reporters on the debris and an inspector from the agency was sent to the site, but it remained open.

Not long after that, a 65-foot stretch of the viaduct collapsed, sending several vehicles crashing onto Highway 19 below.

It was the second serious overpass collapse in Laval in the last six years. In 2000, a man died when a section of overpass that had been under construction for six months collapsed and eight 70-ton beams fell on the car he was riding in.

Meanwhile, police on Monday said Veronique Binette and Mathieu Goyette, both 28, were in one of two cars crushed by concrete Saturday. The people killed in a second car were identified as Jean-Pierre Hamel, 40; his partner Sylvie Beaudet, 44; and his brother Gilles, 44.

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