Truck driver killed on Raglan mine road

18-wheeler overturns during routine delivery



A Quebecois truck driver died this past Sunday after his 18-wheel haulage truck overturned during a routine delivery on the Raglan mine road.

The accident happened at about 8 a.m. on Nov. 24. Denys Marcoux, 51, a driver with five years’ experience working for Katinniq Transport and 30 years’ experience hauling rigs, had just unloaded a shipment of nickel-ore at Deception Bay and was returning to Raglan mine with a load of supplies — as he had done on a thousand previous trips.

Police said Marcoux was driving at a safe speed on a straight patch of the mining road. It was a windy but clear day. The truck was in good working condition and the roads, though covered in a little snow, were clear of debris.

“Mr. Marcoux was driving when the front right tire slid into the ditch. The truck did what we call a ‘jack knife’ [where the truck cab lies under the weight of its trailer],” Lucien Brassard of the Kativik Regional Police Force said Wednesday.

Thirty tons of a powdered mining product called swallex fell from the trailer into the cab — crushing the driver’s cabin.

Brassard said an autopsy later confirmed Marcoux died of suffocation.

Keith Harris-Lowe, spokesperson for the mining company, said both his company and Katinniq Transport were at a loss to explain the tragedy.

“Obviously we’re very sad that it happened and we’ve expressed our condolences to the family and to the men of Katinniq Transport. This is a difficult time for them,” Harris-Lowe said in an interview Tuesday.

“We have an excellent safety record on site — both ourselves and Katinniq Transport — to ensure these kind of things don’t happen and when they do happen we are very concerned to ensure they don’t happen again.”

Police completed their investigation into the accident on Tuesday. They reiterated that the truck’s mechanics were in good operating condition and that the road, which Raglan mine looks after, was well-maintained.

“There is no blame here at all,” Brassard said. “It was an accident.”

Harris-Lowe said such tragedies are unusual along the 100-kilometre road. Traffic on the route is extremely light — typically limited to a few trucks hauling ore concentrate to Deception Bay for shipment South or returning to the mine with supplies. There are also very few sharp turns or bends to navigate on the road.

The road, however, is raised to keep snowdrifts from accumulating on the route. But this engineering feature has lead to only three minor incidents in the past, he said.

“We have had accidents before on the route. At this time our best information is three in the past [since the mine opened in 1997],” Harris-Lowe said. “But we’ve never had a cab go off the road before. The trailer portion has gone off [the edge of the raised road] but never the entire vehicle.”

These accidents have only ever required minor first-aid attention.

Harris-Lowe was also quick to point out that no nickel-ore concentrate was spilled in the accident. Nickel-ore can be highly toxic.

Bert Pelletier, spokesperson for Katinniq Transport, was also at a loss to explain the accident.

“It’s hit everyone very hard,” Pelletier said. “This is the first time I’ve heard of anything like this. The first time I’ve dealt with something like this here. I’ve never even had someone hurt themselves before.”

He did point out, however, that Raglan mine employees, including truckers, work four weeks of solid, 11-hour days before earning two weeks holidays.

Marcoux was a resident of Neufchatel, Que., though he grew up in Saint-Raphael in southern Quebec. He leaves behind a wife and daughter.

Pelletier expects a funeral will take place Saturday in Saint-Raphael.

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