Ontario Provincial Police have reopened Highway 401 in both directions east of Kingston, Ont., after multiple pileups left a Hamilton man dead, caused a toxic leak and prompted an evacuation on Tuesday.
In the first collision around 2 p.m. ET, five tractor-trailers and a car collided just east of Highway 137, police said. Approximately one kilometre east of that collision, seven tractor-trailers crashed into three other vehicles, setting off multiple chain reactions involving other vehicles.
A third collision involved three tractor-trailers, police said.
One transport truck driver died. Police identified him as Ian Melville, 45, of Hamilton.
The truck Melville was driving leaked a toxic substance, and as a precaution the area was evacuated.
Ministry of the Environment officials had declared the area unsafe.
The toxic substance that spilled was later identified as fluorosilicic acid, according to a statement from Kingston General Hospital. The chemical is mainly used to preserve wood.
A hazardous materials team was called in to handle the spill along with environment ministry officials.
"Exposure to the chemical could cause irritation to the nose, throat, respiratory system, irritation, redness or swelling of the skin and severe eye irritation," the hospital's statement said.
34 patients, including 17 first responders
Kingston General Hospital confirmed Wednesday it had received 34 patients from the crash scene, including 17 first responders who underwent decontamination and were held for observation as a precaution.
The hospital declared a code orange over at 8 p.m. Tuesday. According to the Ontario Hospital Association, code orange is used in the event of an external disaster resulting in a surge of casualties seeking care at a hospital urgent or emergency department.
Barr told CBC News some first responders were exposed to the chemical while coming to the aid of the driver of the transport truck who was taken to hospital for his injuries.
"The five firefighters, for sure, were involved in trying to rescue this driver who was in his transport, and the three police officers as well," she said.
The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, where the crash occurred, said in a statement that the site has been contained.
"All vehicles have been rerouted and all persons with potential chemical exposure have been transported for medical attention. No residential properties were affected and there is no risk to the general public," a spokesperson for the township wrote late Tuesday afternoon on the municipality's Facebook page.
"The Ministry of the Environment has been notified and cleanup crews have arrived on site to remediate the area from the chemical spill."
Police described conditions on the highway as "near whiteout" when the crash occurred.
Video courtesy Dave Somerville