MONTREAL — A Quebec coroner is questioning why the Transport Department failed to maintain a stretch of highway northeast of Montreal where a man died last year after his car hit a seven-metre-long pothole.

Coroner Paul Dionne said 32-year-old Ihor Horbanov died March 11, 2019, after his car hit the “giant” pothole near Contrecoeur, Que.

Horbanov hit the water-filled cavity after moving lanes to avoid a Transport Department vehicle that had stopped to help another car, which had already hit the same hole, the coroner’s report read.

At the time of the crash, the pothole was 1.6 metres wide, nearly seven metres long, and filled with about nine centimetres of water, according to a police report cited by the coroner.

The cause of death was described as “multiple cranial and thoracic trauma following a loss of control of his vehicle after a passage through a giant pothole on Autoroute 30 west.”

In his report published in April, Dionne noted the segment of Autoroute 30 where the accident occurred was known to be problematic. Police, he said, had responded to a number of flat tires in the weeks leading up to the fatal crash, including up to seven in one day on Feb. 5.

Transportation authorities had also carried out “several” repairs, including emergency roadwork three days prior to the crash. “It was known it was dangerous since Feb. 2019; they carried out emergency paving,” Dionne wrote.

“A major repair job was done March 8 and there was no follow up until the moment of the fatal accident on March 11!” he wrote, noting it took repair crews over 9.7 tonnes of material to fix the hole after the accident.

Dionne acknowledged potholes can form quickly, and there had been no reports of incidents in the sector in the three days prior to the crash.

The department has since taken steps to repair the highway and to review the way potholes are identified and fixed, Dionne said. He recommended all workers in the field should be trained to use the new system, and that it should be reviewed regularly to ensure its quality.

Dionne said Horbanov’s car was otherwise in good condition and he had not consumed any alcohol when he skidded off the road while driving with his family.

The death was ruled accidental.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2020.