Image: Broken overpass
Ryan Remiorz  /  AP
Rescue workers survey the site of an overpass in Laval, Quebec, on Saturday.
updated 10/1/2006 10:30:11 AM ET 2006-10-01T14:30:11

Quebec provincial police said Sunday that at least five people were crushed to death in their cars after an overpass near Montreal collapsed.

Spokeswoman Isabelle Gendron said three people were found in one car and two others were found in another car trapped by the falling concrete in Laval.

The vehicles were crushed so badly in the Saturday afternoon collapse that they barely reached the knees of one firefighter when lifted from under tons of concrete rubble Sunday.

“At this point the rescue operation is completed,” said Gendron, noting that no other vehicles were trapped.

Drivers on Highway 19 in the Greater Montreal Area slammed on their brakes and watched in horror as the overpass slowly collapsed shortly after noon, sending cars plunging and crushing at least two vehicles.

Manon Joly had just dropped her daughter off at dance school and was in her car about to drive onto Highway 19.

“I slowed down and then all of a sudden everything collapsed like a house of cards,” she said. “There were three or four cars that plunged into the hole right in front of me.”

Police said six people were injured, including two who were listed in critical condition. The six were in two cars, a minivan and on a motorcycle that all plunged into the void.

‘I thought it was an earthquake’
Quebec provincial police spokeswoman Chantal Mackels said Saturday that three lanes of the overpass plus a pedestrian sidewalk collapsed onto Highway 19. She said four vehicles—a motorcycle, two cars and a minivan—were on the overpass at the time

The incident occurred before 1 p.m. One witness told TVA television network that he noticed that the road sunk an inch or two when he traveled over the overpass minutes earlier, so he called emergency dispatchers.

Jean-Nicolas Turcotte, who lives near the overpass, was woken up by the collapse.

“I was sleeping when the large crash woke me up. At first I thought it was an earthquake or an accident. I looked out the window and heard people screaming,” Turcotte said. “And I saw large puffs of smoke rising.”

Claude Canton was painting his house just off the highway when he heard a loud bang. He said he saw two cars that were stuck under rubble and one started to catch fire before police put it out with extinguishers.

Aerial helicopter shots showed two passenger cars and a van on their backs or on the sides over the wreckage of the collapsed overpass, blocking traffic for miles. Authorities closed the bridge further down connecting Laval with the island on Montreal to its south.

The incident was similar to the 2000 collapse of an overpass, also on the island of Laval north of Montreal, which killed one and injured two.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Overpass collapses

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