Police examine the scene where a pickup truck plowed into a group of cyclists Friday, May 14, 2010, in Rougemont, Quebec, south of Montreal. The gruesome scene played out this morning on a highway and left scraps of twisted metal scattered along the pavement. Photo by The Canadian Press
A pick-up truck careened into a pack of cyclists on a Quebec highway in a gruesome accident that killed three and badly injured three others.
Cracked bicycle helmets, mangled spokes and vehicle debris littered a stretch of highway near Montreal that fellow cyclists and residents alike described as an accident waiting to happen.
It was a grisly end to what was supposed to have been a pleasant bike ride to Sherbrooke, Que., where the group planned to join several others for an annual triathlon training session.
The five women and one man were part of a triathlon club on Montreal's south shore. All the deceased were women.
A spokesman for the Club de Triathlon St-Lambert said the club was in shock. The surviving cyclists said they never saw what hit them.
"It was very fast," Eric Lemyre said.
Neighbours reported hearing a loud crash Friday morning. In their home just metres from the scene, Brigitte Bourdeau's children dashed to the window to see bodies strewn about the road.
Cars came to a screeching halt to help the injured. According to police and the triathlon club, among those delivering first aid was the man driving the pickup truck.
Investigators from Quebec's provincial police planned to meet with the driver on Friday. They also seized his truck, the front end of which was crumpled like a piece of cardboard.
"The truck appears to have hit several of the cyclists," said Sgt. Claude Denis. "There was a chain reaction."
While Denis refused to speculate any further on the cause of the accident, he did rule out alcohol and weather as factors.
The remnants of the bicycles were scattered over a 45-metre stretch, along with the truck's side mirror.
Several people indicated that drivers rarely respected the 90 km/h speed limit on the highway where the collision occurred.
"This road was dangerous for automobiles," said Bourdeau. "So I can imagine what cyclists (must feel)."
Bruno Sevigny, a member of the same triathlon club who was riding about an hour behind his six colleagues, complained that motorists often failed to heed cyclists on the side of the road.
"It's obviously very dangerous here," he said, pointing to the unpaved shoulder of the highway.
"We're forced to ride in the road."
The triathlon club downplayed the danger of the road.
Lemyre said the route is considered a fairly easy ride. The cyclists were travelling around 25 km/h because, he said, one of them wasn't that strong a rider.
Quebec provincial police suggested the cyclists may have been breaking the highway safety code as they opted not to ride on a gravel bike path that runs parallel to the highway.
"When there is a bike path you have to use it," said Denis.
Other cyclists who gathered at the scene argued that in such situations their safety is often at the whim of motorists.
"It's very dangerous. The cars drive too fast," said Bruno Marcil, an avid cyclist who travels often along the road. "It doesn't surprise me they got hit, the cars drive so fast here."
The triathlon club said training has been cancelled out of respect for the victims.
"They were people that were very determined," Lemyre said. "Most of them were training for the Iron Man (competitions) of Lake Placid that are held in July.
"They're people that don't know discouragement."
Friday's tragedy bore a chilling resemblance to a similar incident last summer in Ottawa, when five experienced cyclists were also struck.
None of them died, but one spent months recovering in hospital. The driver in that incident has been charged with hit-and-run.