Discover the 7 Worst Bridge Collapses in Canada

Much while tragedies happen on a daily basis, their frequency makes them much more horrifying. In the past 200 years, seven of Canada’s deadliest bridge collapses have occurred. Numerous injuries and more than 200 fatalities were caused by the collapses.

The Quebec Bridge collapsed in 1907, making it the worst bridge disaster in Canadian history. Soon after, the painstaking repair of the bridge started, but it still resulted in multiple fatalities.

Over the years, five more horrific bridge collapses happened, though they were less noteworthy. A few collapses happened when the building was being built. Others were the outcome of subpar building and upkeep.

1. The Quebec Bridge (1907) — The Most Fatal Bridge Disaster in Canadian History

Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, construction on the Quebec Bridge started in 1887.

The river is well-known for its harsh, icy circumstances. Thus, a cantilever bridge was chosen by the engineers.

“Cantilevers,” which are protruding beams, are used to construct these kinds of bridges. Only one end of each projecting beam is supported.

During the summer, the St. Lawrence River served as the region’s main trading route. Over the winter, the dangerous river conditions prevented trade, necessitating the construction of a bridge.

When the bridge fell in 1907, work was not even complete. Of the 86 workers, 75 perished in the collapse, and some of the bodies were never found.

Edward Hoare, the chief engineer, had never worked on a bridge longer than 300 feet, which was one of the main issues. At that time, the St. Lawrence River’s narrowest point was roughly two miles wide.

A well-known and exceptionally skilled engineer named Theodore Cooper provided Edward Hoare with advice. It didn’t seem to be sufficient, though.

Employees saw “deflections” in a few of the main chords on multiple occasions. They brought these issues up with Cooper and a few other superiors, but most of them seemed unconcerned.

The personnel made the decision to stop working until the problem was fixed. They debated it for a while before deciding to move forward with the construction.

In the end, on August 29, 1907, around 5:30 p.m., the bridge fell. An already-bent compression chord gave way beneath the bridge’s increasing weight, causing the collapse. Everything about the bridge was demolished, even the piers.

2. The Quebec Bridge (1916)

During repair, the Quebec Bridge collapsed a second time. Thirteen workers perished in the partial collapse, which demolished the central section of the bridge.

1917 saw the bridge’s ultimate completion.

The Transcontinental Railway Commission established an Engineering Committee to reconstruct the bridge following its initial collapse. They desired a comprehensive redesign of the bridge following the great tragedy of 1907.

According to Engineering News, “The stimulus of the intense interest awakened by the collapse of the first bridge will multiply this attention.” The committee’s conclusions and designs will be scrutinized more closely and with greater anxiety.

On September 11, 1916, when they were completing the bridge, there was another catastrophe.

The bridge’s span was raised by workers, but it eventually broke free of its supports and fell into the river. The weather was ideal and there was no wind. Up until that point, everything was going smoothly.

Thirteen workers were killed and fourteen injured when the bridge crashed into the river at 10:50 a.m.

Had the span collapsed sooner, a great number of soldiers would have perished. When they first started to operate, a number of well-known engineers from the United States and Canada stood on the span. Luckily, a large number of those men moved from the span to the shoreline before to the suspension continuing.

“But experience teaches again that disaster may come, even to the most careful,” Engineering News stated. Given the events in Quebec, engineers at all levels of the profession need to become acutely aware of the possibility of failure in every task they undertake and the need for their fellow professionals to extend their deepest sympathies to those who suffer from such failures.

3. The Heron Road Bridge Collapse (1966) — “A Thousand Tons of Terror”

In order to facilitate passage across the Rideau River and Canal in Ottawa, the Heron Road Bridge was constructed. Later, in 2016, the bridge was renamed the Heron Road Workers Memorial Bridge in remembrance of the men who had died.

In reality, the project consisted of two bridges. Two were designated for eastward and westward traffic, respectively. Each bridge had three lanes and was almost a thousand feet long.

On August 10, 1966, the bridge collapsed while 183 men were working on it. Nearing the end of his long summer shift, John Robillard, an assistant crane operator, was mounting a large wooden ladder. As he ascended, he heard wood splitting, but he wrote it off as “normal” building noise.

The Heron Road Bridge collapsed at 3:27 p.m., leaving nine individuals dead and over sixty injured. The bridge trembled badly, and the workers who survived said it sounded like a bomb going off.

Subsequently, it was discovered that the bridge was not given the appropriate support during construction. That that day, the workmen were installing concrete, which was too hefty for the bridge.

Many of the soldiers who perished did so after falling 65 feet. Steel reinforcing rods were used to impale a few people. Some were buried under a mixture of steel, wood, and wet cement.

“A Thousand Tons of Terror” was the headline used by The Ottawa Journal when they reported on the catastrophe.

4. The Point Ellice Bridge (1896)

On May 26, 1896, a portion of the Point Ellice Bridge in Victoria fell.

A streetcar carrying revelers prepared to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday was across the bridge. Out of the 143 people on board the streetcar, 55 perished in the collapse.

In 1885, this four-span bridge was constructed using metal and wood. The bridge’s tramlines were added after it was built because they were too heavy for the structure to support. In addition, the bridge needed more maintenance.

5. The Desjardins Canal Bridge (1857)

The Desjardins Canal Bridge collapsed due to a steam locomotive’s problem, not the bridge itself. The locomotive, which belonged to the Great Western Railway, had an axle that was shattered. The locomotive crashed through the deck of the bridge due to a broken axle.

The canal below had lethal, cold water. About a hundred people rode in the locomotive. Nineteen people sustained injuries as 59 individuals fell to their deaths.

6. The Second Narrows Bridge (1958)

North Vancouver and Vancouver were joined by the Second Narrows Bridge. On June 17, 1958, a portion of the bridge collapsed during construction. The bridge was supported by a temporary arm that was unable to hold the weight.

Later on, it was discovered that the engineers responsible for the bridge’s collapse had committed mistakes in the design.

Under 8,000 tons of steel, 18 individuals were crushed to death in the fall. As they dropped, the enormous steel beams twisted like yarn. In the process of retrieving the dead, one of the divers perished.

For two hours, nearby welders divided the beams in order to save the people underneath. 79 people were hurt, but many of them could still be saved.

The bridge’s collapse did not halt building. To remember the men who lost their lives in the collapse, it was called the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.

7. The De la Concorde Overpass (2006)

On September 30, 2006, the De la Concorde Overpass collapsed.

The overpass is located atop a roadway in Laval, Quebec. Regrettably, the overpass collapsed due to inadequate design, construction, and maintenance.

At midday, a sixty-five-foot piece of the overpass gave way, leaving five people dead and six injured.

Overview of the Seven Worst Bridge Collapses in Canada

  Year it Collapsed No. of Deaths
The Quebec Bridge 1907 75
The Quebec Bridge 1916 13
The Heron Road Bridge Collapse 1966 9
The Point Ellice Bridge 1896 55
The Desjardins Canal Bridge 1857 59
The Second Narrows Bridge 1958 19
The De la Concorde Overpass 2006 5