Driver dead after tractor-trailer slides off cliff in northwestern N.B.

RCMP were dispatched to a crash on Route 17 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste at around 12:40 p.m. Sunday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
RCMP were dispatched to a crash on Route 17 in Saint-Jean-Baptiste at around 12:40 p.m. Sunday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

A 62-year-old man has died after a crash in northwestern New Brunswick.

The man was driving a tractor-trailer on Route 17 at around noon Sunday near Saint-Jean-Baptiste, about 100 kilometres east of Edmundston.

The highway was snow-covered and slippery, and as he went down a small hill, the driver was unable to make the turn and slid off of a cliff into a brook, said Kedgwick Fire Department firefighter Veronique Coloumbe.

"The snow was really wet, so it was a big white [sheet of] ice on the road," she said Monday. "We needed to pull off the road to be able to see the big truck."

2nd fatal crash in a month

In a news release, RCMP said the Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska man died on the scene because of his injuries.

This is the second fatal crash on Route 17 in less than a month. The Restigouche County and greater northern New Brunswick community has been calling on the province to do a better job clearing the roads.

The outcry was especially loud after a crash killed 20-year-old Ritchie Fournier and a 35-year-old man. Two more people were taken to hospital with serious injuries. That weekend, another crash on Route 11 near Caraquet, in the northeast, killed two women.

The mayor of Kedgwick, Éric Gagnon, told Radio-Canada that this is not the first crash in the area this winter. He and other Restigouche County mayors met with the Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jeff Carr to press for better road maintenance. Another meeting is expected in the coming weeks.

"The problem is that nothing has changed," Gagnon said.

Coloumbe said she was surprised to see this weekend's crash happen at the stretch of highway right before Saint-Jean-de-Baptiste. She said she takes that road to work daily, and that's not a spot she specifically watches.

"Normally it's OK," she said. "But yesterday, road conditions were bad."

Road wasn't cleared of snow

She said when firefighters arrived on the scene, they asked the 911 dispatch to request a snowplow and salt truck from the province right away.

She said she doesn't know why the road wasn't cleared.

"It was a dangerous snow," she said.

Coloumbe said there were at least two crashes in the area that day. The first was minor, and happened shortly before the fatal crash.

In her experience, this has been a particularly bad winter for road conditions.

"It's more rain than snow," she said. "It's been bad for a couple of years, but the weather is not really helping us."

The driver was the only person in the tractor-trailer, and no other vehicles were involved in the crash, RCMP said.

The New Brunswick Coroner's Office will be conducting an autopsy to determine the man's exact cause of death, RCMP said.