|An aerial photo shows workers working at the scene of a cave in at a quarry in L'Ephiphanie, Que., northeast of Montreal on Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013. An unknown number of workers are missing. (Maxime Landry/QMI Agency)
L'EPIPHANIE, Que. — Unstable earth led authorities to suspend the search Friday for two truck drivers buried in a quarry collapse.
Alarms sounded in the morning, sending searchers scrambling away from a massive pile of earth where two dump trucks and a front loader have lay buried since Monday morning.
There have been no signs of life from Daniel Brisebois and Marie-Claude Laporte, contractors for the Maskino quarry northeast of Montreal.
Authorities had said they would dig day and night until the pair is found but it wasn't immediately clear when the search would resume.
Meantime, two other machine operators told QMI Agency they would likely be dead if not for last-minute changes.
"I had to go to work at the quarry," said Sebastien Quevillon, who operates an excavator. "At the last minute, my boss decided to send me to the (unloading) field."
He waited at the field for the dump trucks to arrive and became concerned by lunchtime when they hadn't shown up.
Quevillon decided to call driver Benoit Robert, who operated a front loader down at the quarry.
Just minutes earlier Robert, Brisebois and Laporte had tumbled 100 metres, while still inside their vehicles, in the massive landslide.
Robert had jumped clear at the bottom of the quarry when Quevillon called.
"He started shouting at me and crying," said Quevillon. "I realized that something was wrong."
He headed to the scene and his heart sank: colleagues Brisebois and Laporte were buried under mud and rock while Robert was pacing around in shock while waiting for a police chopper to rescue him.
The brother-in-law of one of the missing drivers told QMI that he also narrowly escaped death on Monday.
The man, who wouldn't give his name, said he and Laporte were in their garage before her fall when she noticed his truck had mud on the undercarriage, which could break off and be a hazard.
"The unfortunate thing is that my sister-in-law told me to clean the back of my dump truck ... and I offered her my place," he recalled.
She drove off and minutes later, he heard a terrifying sound on the CB radio.
"It happened in a second and a half, I heard (her) death cry ... then complete silence," said the man, who was treated for shock.
He tried to join the search, but other truckers held him back, saying it was too dangerous.
- With files from Kassandra Martel