Community in Quebec’s Lanaudière region in shock, authorities on site following violent explosion

By Alyssia Rubertucci

The day after the violent explosion at Propane Lafortune, a family business in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan in the Lanaudière region – around 51 kilometers north of Montreal, three employees are still missing and authorities are on the scene.

“We cannot say for sure that we only have three victims into this event,” said Sûreté du Québec spokesperson, Eloise Cossette, at a joint press conference Friday afternoon. “We are in contact with the families of the victims. We offered assistance and we are very concerned about all the questions they could have and we will try to inform them step-by-step what we are doing.”

She said the SQ is carefully combing through the site of the explosion.

“Because of the scene, it’s very complex,” she said. “We have some dangerous products on the scene and we have to be careful with the police officers that are searching on the scene, so it’s going to take a couple of days.”

Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan one day after a violent explosion at a propane business. (Credit: Martin Daigle / CITYNEWS)

Mayor of the municipality, Sébastien Marcil, fought back tears during the press conference.

“It is the first time that I went to the site today and we are able to see the explosion was [significant],” he said. “That is what we felt, [it] shook us.”

The Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, and Caroline Proulx, Minister responsible for the Lanaudière region were on hand.

“It’s quite catastrophic to see it, to see this fire, this explosion,” Bonnardel said. “So we’re here to support the community, the family and friends.”

Isabelle Lafortune, co-owner of the Propane Lafortune, which offers propane and other fuels like heating oil, made a statement alongside her siblings and father Friday.

“It is an extremely difficult event for us, this is a first in 67 years,” she said. “I would like to offer my sincere sympathies to the families of the victims who are still missing.”

St Roch de l'Achigan Explosion FB post

Viateur Lamarche, former employee of the business who lives two minutes away, heard the explosion.

“I immediately tried to call them and see if someone would answer and I didn’t get through,” he said by phone Friday. “When I called someone else, they told me I wouldn’t be seeing the Lafortune business anymore, that it’s gone.”

According to the company’s information, two employees and a subcontractor were there at the time of the explosion.

They have set up psychological support for their employees.

“The investigation will allow us to learn more and we will continue to cooperate with the authorities,” Lafortune said.

The town of under 6,000 people remains in shock, but the mayor says support from across Quebec has been appreciated.

“The Achigan citizens thank you from the bottom of their heart because it’s very difficult what they’re living right now, because there is a wait and the wait is long,” he said.

Violent explosion

Calls to 911 came in around 11:17 a.m. about the blast on Thursday morning at Propane Lafortune, on Rang de la Rivière Nord (Route 339), near Rang Saint-Régis.

An evacuation of residences within a one kilometer radius of the explosion were ordered to help firefighters and authorities secure the perimeter. Psychological support and shelter was made available for citizens in the basement of the church of Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan.

The fire was still not under control by late afternoon, said François Thivierge Directeur, Service de sécurité des incendies, MRC de Montcalm.

The St-Roch-de-l’Achigan fire department had about 50 people onsite and they are being supported by those from Repentigny, Rawdon, Sainte-Julienne and Saint-Lin-Laurentides.

St Roch de l'Achigan Explosion

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