Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

It’s been two days since a massive explosion ripped through a tanker truck manufacturer at the southern end of Ottawa, and the complex, multifaceted investigation has only just begun.

The development has been fast and furious since the first 911 calls came around 13.30 on Thursday.

Although it will probably take some time before there is a firm explanation as to what caused the explosion, some details have been confirmed – including that one person is dead and five more are missing and presumed dead.

Here’s what we know so far and when we learned it.

Thursday

On around 13.30, people start calling 911 about a massive explosion in an industrial business on Merivale Road just south of West Hunt Club road.

Some callers report flames at 15 to 18 feet high at the scene, while witnesses tell CBC that they heard loud bangs and roaring noises.

Firefighters at the scene discover that the building is engulfed in flames and that the roof and walls are about to collapse. They begin to fight a defensive battle against the fire.

Just after noon. Ottawa police tweet it people have been injured in an explosion and fire on the 1900 block of Merivale, and a stretch of Merivale has been cordoned off.

CBC reporters arrive at the scene – or as close as they can get – shortly after to find officers directing traffic, emergency vehicles driving past, and smoke waves in the distance.

Acting Fire Chief Paul Hutt gives his first update from the stage around noon. 15:30, tell reporters two people have been taken to hospital with undisclosed damages. At about the same time, The Ottawa Hospital says in a statement that they actually have three people in their custody.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, meanwhile, informs the fire site as Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd., a manufacturer of custom tank trucks.

About an hour later, Hutt gives another update, saying the fire is still active and that they need to bring in heavy equipment to suppress it. He says crews suck up all polluted water and take air quality samples and there is no danger to nearby residents.

Paramedics meanwhile confirm that three people are actually in the hospital – two in critical condition, one in stable condition.

No danger to residents as the Merivale Road fire continues to burn, the fire chief said

Ottawa Fire Services chief Paul Hutt says officials are taking steps to keep the area clean and safe for residents while continuing to fight the fire on Merivale Road, which remains closed to traffic. 0:59

Shortly after 5.30pm Ottawa Fire Services announces that a “family reunification center” has been set up in Woodvale Pentecostal Church to reunite employees with their families.

Firefighters have officially got the fire under control at 17.48

Ottawa police, fire and paramedics are issuing a joint press release just before 7 pm, encourages all workers and their family members to go to the Reunification Center to make sure everyone is catered for. They say rescue crews are still searching for the scene of the fire and keeping an eye out for any flare-ups.

Merivale Road reopens around 7.30pm

People walk near Woodvale Pentacostal Church in Ottawa on January 13, 2022. The church served as a ‘family reunion center’ in the wake of a fatal explosion and fire on Merivale Road. (Guy Quenneville / CBC)

Friday

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who represents the area, mourns an early morning update to CBC radios Ottawa tomorrow. He says he visited the reunion center Thursday night, but that he did not know if all workers were accounted for.

At a press conference at 9.00Nearly 20 hours after the explosion, police officially confirm that five people who were in the building at the time of the explosion are missing and believed to be dead.

Police also say one of the three men who was brought to the hospital on Thursday was dead. Another is in stable condition while the third was discharged from the hospital.

Ottawa police say the arsonist will be the lead investigators for the force, though they do not say whether they believe the explosion and fire were caused by a deliberate act.

One dead, five missing in the Merivale Road fire, police said

Ottawa politiinsp. Frank D’Aoust said a man is dead and five more people are missing and presumed dead after the explosion and fire Thursday afternoon in a store on Merivale Road. 0:53

Ontario’s Office of Forensic Medicine confirms it would help with the investigation shortly before 10 o’clock

Just before, Eastway Tank President Neil Greene issues a statement saying he is “complete [devastated]and his company will cooperate with all investigations. He says they want to “get to the bottom of what happened.”

Another city council member, Tim Tierney, tells CBC News around 1 p.m. about how he was nearby when the explosion occurred. He says he originally thought it was an earthquake.

Ottawa councilors describe ‘catastrophic’ Merivale Road fire

Councilors Tim Tierney and Keith Egli say officials are investigating the cause of the fire and are still searching for the five people missing after the fire began Thursday afternoon. 1:18

Ontario’s Department of Labor says around 4.30pm they will conduct a parallel study.

A spokesman says they issued four orders against Eastway Tank in 2017, related to issues such as ventilation, welding and hazardous chemicals. They were fully complied with.

The Ministry of the Environment is sending an email in the meantime just before 5.30pm to say that clean-up work is still taking place and that environmental risks to society are low.

Drone footage recorded by CBC around that time also shows that work is continuing at the fire site.

On Friday night, the identity of one of the victims, 57-year-old Rick Bastien, was confirmed to CBC News by his son.

Josh Bastien said his father, a longtime Eastway employee listed in the company’s library as a welder / manufacturer / mechanic, was a “stand-up guy” who was “loved by everyone who came across him.”

A former Eastway employee himself, Bastien also shed light on the other five victims, saying they were his friends and calling them all “good people.”

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