Papinachois, QB Bus And Automobile Collision, July 1983


Papinachois, Que. (CP) -- A young survivor of a fiery collision between a Voyageur coach and a station-wagon says several bus passengers owe their lives to injured and bleeding veteran driver NORMAND DUBE, who calmly opened windows so they could escape the smoke-filled vehicle.
"I saw the car approaching the bus head-on. The crash was incredibly frightening," 14-year-old JOSEE BOUCHARD of Baie St. Paul, Que., told reporters yesterday, a day after three bus passengers and all five occupants of the car were killed in a crash on a lonely stretch of highway 340 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
The bus caught fire after the impact, trapping three victims identified as FLORETTE DUFOUR-TREMBLAY, 50, of St. Simeon; THERESE HARVEY-LEROUX, 76, of Arvida, and JEAN-LUC EMOND, 22, of Sault-au-Mouton.
In the station-wagon were TOMMY GAUDETTE, 39 -- presumed to be the driver -- ANDRE BOLDUC, 20; ELY WALTER, 17; ROMEO BONHOMME, 15, and a fifth man whose identity was withheld pending notification of kin.
The five, all from the Montreal area, were returning from Baie-Comeau after loading provisions on a ship for their employer, a Montreal ship chandler.
Twenty-six other bus passengers were injured. All but four were released yesterday.
"Right after the collision, fire broke out," said BOUCHARD, who was seated directly behind driver DUBE, a Quebec City resident. Voyageur spokesman Yvan Coulombe called DUBE "an experienced driver with many years of seniority with our company."
Eyewitnesses said DUBE, who was driving the GMC-built bus on a 400-kilometre intercity run to Baie-Comeau from Quebec City, was bleeding from the mouth. But his injuries were not serious and he was among the first released from hospital after the crash. There were about 30 people aboard the bus at the time of the accident.
BOUCHARD said: "I tried to open a window to get out but I couldn't budge it. Then I saw the driver trying several windows. Finally, he was able to open one."
"He saved my life. Without his help, I don't know where I'd be right now."
All of the dead were burned beyond recognition. Most of the injured had broken bones and cuts. Several were burned, one severely.
Coulombe said the accident took place on a straight, flat two-lane stretch of highway when the station-wagon, following four or five cars, "decided to pull out and pass."
Investigators are trying to determine how the fire started, but it is thought the fuel tank of the station-wagon, which ended up underneath the bus, split open on impact. The car was so badly burned that police still are unsure of its make.
Another bus passenger, 26-year-old SERGE VAILLANCOURT of nearby Forestville, also said passengers had difficulty opening windows after the crash.
"I tried to open a window, but it took me two minutes to do so and to escape. I knew I had to get out, because there was fire everywhere and the smoke was so dense."
Police said panic among the bus passengers may have been the cause of problems opening windows.
"The bus was rolling along at normal cruising speed, and when it hit the car it stopped like it had hit a cement wall," said passenger PIERRE LANGIOIS, 39, a Quebecer living in Toronto.

Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba Canada 1983-07-02