The southbound lane of the Queen Elizabeth Way, heading into Fort Erie and portions of Lundy's Lane were closed after a dump truck with its rear bed extended hit the Lundy's Lane Bridge that crosses the highway and set off a series of crashes this morning. One woman suffered life-threatening injuries and traffic tie ups were expected to continue into this evening.

Ontario Provincial Police Constable Graham Williamson said a dump truck driver heading southbound on the QEW hit the Lundy's Lane Bridge at 9:50 a.m., which led to a second crash involving two tractor-trailers at 10:53 a.m. on the QEW near Thorold Stone Road.

The QEW southbound lane, between Thorold Stone Road and Lundy's Lane and Lundy's in both directions, between Belmont and Royal Manor roads, will be closed until about 8 p.m., said Williamson.

He said a large extended-length dump truck was headed southbound with its rear bed extended, for no known reason.

"It actually had its box in the upright position. There was no load on it, but the box was up and, of course, it is not going to make it under the bridge and it struck the bridge," Williamson said. He said that crash did not cause any structural damages to the bridge.

He said the force of the crash caused the truck to stop instantly and then its box detached and a Honda minivan ran into the box.

The female driver, who was the only occupant in the van, was taken by ambulance to Greater Niagara General Hospital and then airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital with life-threatening injuries, said Williamson. The dump truck driver was not injured.

The stop-and-go traffic congestion then led to a second crash on the QEW a short distance north of the first crash near Thorold Stone Road.

In the second crash, a tractor-trailer transporting a type of iron oxide material was struck in the rear by a second tractor-trailer. The driver of the first truck suffered minor injuries, but the driver of the second truck suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Hamilton General Hospital.

"We called the hazardous materials unit to respond, but it was a slight hazard. Rather than sweeping up or hosing it, it is actually being vacuumed," Williamson said. He said the iron oxide-type material is from the inside of some type of furnace.

Two other vehicles also were involved when the two trucks collided; those drivers were not injured, according to Williamson.

The driver of the dump truck that triggered the crashes has not been charged, but Williamson said both crashes remain under investigation by the OPP with assistance from its Traffic Support Unit.

"We hoping to get everything opened by 7 or 8 p.m.," said Williamson, who spoke to the Buffalo News from the closed portion of the scene. "North of this location it's bunged up pretty well all along the QEW."