Two firefighters and a Thames Valley Ambulance attendant carry Donat Courchesne, 44, to an ambulance on Highway 401 west of London Tuesday. The Hull, Que., trucker was trapped for more than two hours in wreckage. By Ed Heal of The Free Press

By Doug Specht of The Free Press

A Quebec trucker was trapped inside the crushed cab of his transport near London for more than two hours Tuesday afternoon while provincial police, firefighters and ambulance attendants worked to free him.

Donat Courchesne, 44, of Hull, had been eastbound on Highway 401 hauling a load of salt when his transport collided with another tractor trailer about seven miles west of Wellington Road.

Mr. Courchesne was in fair condition with multiple injuries in Victoria Hospital late Tuesday.

Constable Neil Morse of OPP London detachment said the transport, driven by Mr. Courchesne and owned by B and M Carriers Ltd. of North Gower, Ont., collided with a pup trailer at the rear of a rig driven by Kenneth C. Purdy, 39, of Gowanda, N.Y.

He said the impact demolished the cab of the Courchesne truck, pinning the driver behind the wheel, and caused at least three rolls of sheet steel to topple from the pup trailer.

Constable Morse said the rolls of steel weighed about five tons each.

Constable Morse said Mr. Purdy was shaken by the impact but declined medical attention.

He said that following the collision, fire broke out under the demolished cab but truckers who had stopped at the scene extinguished the flames with snow.


A 44-year-old Hull, Que., man was pulled alive from this tangle of twisted steel. He had been trapped behind the steering wheel and the remains of the dashboard.

Next on the scene were members of Lambeth fire department and the department’s rescue unit.

Constable Morse said the Lambeth crew tried to free the trapped trucker but their equipment wasn’t sufficient to cut through the tangled body metal of the cab.

He said the London fire department’s rescue unit was called and Thames Valley Ambulance was asked to transport a doctor and an intravenous apparatus to the scene.

When the London firefighters joined the Lambeth volunteers, Dr. Victor Stevens from Victoria Hospital and two nurses ministered to the trucker, who was conscious throughout the ordeal.

Constable Morse said Mr. Courchesne speaks only French and was unable to communicate with his rescuers, even to tell them if he was in pain or where it hurt.

However another trucker, Charles Gauvreau of Gatineau, Que., who had been a quarter mile behind the Courchesne truck, arrived and translated for the injured driver and the emergency workers.

Constable Morse praised the work of the firefighters and, in particular, the Thames Valley Ambulance crew. “It was a great team effort,” he said.

“Sparks were flying all over that truck (from the firefighters’ cutting equipment) but those attendants were right in there, trying to get the man out.”

He said the eastbound lanes of the highway were closed for at least an hour after Mr. Courchesne was removed from his cab and taken to Victoria Hospital.

The load of salt Mr. Courchesne was hauling was still “all over the side of the road” late Tuesday, he said.