From the Ottawa Citizen, 30 August 1972.|
Lachute. A young garden product salesman still maintains he saw no warning lights before his truck crashed into the side of a Montreal-bound passenger train at Calumet on Aug. 11
Testifying at a Canadian Transport Commission inquiry here Tuesday, Michael Emery, 23, of Gatineau repeated the story he told immediately after the accident which claimed three lives and injured 26.
Mr. Emery didn't go as far as to say the flashing signals weren't working. He claimed he "didn't see them working." He stated positively the bells which normally ring as the lights flash weren't working before the collision occurred.
However, several witnesses called during the inquiry - which ended late yesterday afternoon - contradicted Mr. Emery's evidence.
Ken Hotchkiss, a Canadian International Paper Company purchasing agent, who travels Highway 8 over the level crossing every morning about the same time, said both lights and bells were working normally when he crossed as the CP Rail dayliner approached.
He said he glanced in his rear view mirror as he crossed and saw no sign of the Emery truck. Commission Counsel J.M. Fortier deduced the accident happened seconds after Mr. Hotchkiss left the scene.
Serge Roy, 16, a student living near the level crossing, said he was in his yard shortly after 9 a.m. and heard the bells on the signal posts ringing.
He added, because of his position, he couldn't see if the lights were flashing. He said he saw the Emery truck coming along highway 8, lost it from view behind some bushes, then saw it collide with the dayliner.
A passenger on the train, Laura Ratchky of Windsor, said she was looking out of the window near the Calumet crossing and saw the warning lights flashing.
Gilbert Blakeney, a CTC signalling engineer, said signals were functioning normally when tested shortly after the accident.
The inquiry, chaired by Louis Talbot, was also greatly concerned at the speed the dayliner was travelling as it came through the crossing.
E.J. Hase, director of operations for the CTC, said a statutory speed limit of 24 m.p.h. at all level crossings where an accident has occurred. He said the limit can only be lifted by the commission.
Although accidents had occurred at the Calumet crossing in the past, there was no speed limit at the time of the crash because previous statutory limits had been lifted. He added the 25 m.p.h. limit had been re-imposed since the Aug. 11 accident.
Veteran CPR engineer George Frankland of Ottawa said he put the throttle of his engine in the maximum position as he pulled out of Calumet station where he'd stopped to pick up two passengers.
Mr. Frankland emphasized when the throttle was placed in maximum the train didn't immediately reach top speed.
"The engine accelerates on its own and takes about a mile to reach its top speed of 90 m.p.h." he said. "We were doing about 45 m.p.h. When we went through the crossing, which is about half a mile from the station."
An unexpected discovery
A commotion stirred the Lachute Masonic Hall, where the inquiry was held, when, under cross-examination by the lawyer representing Mr. Emery, Mr Frankland revealed the train's speedometer wasn't working the day in question.
He said he wasn't aware of the problem until after he left the Ottawa Station, and insisted he was experienced enough to judge how fast he was going without the instrument.
(Mr. Hase testified that during tests made by the commission after the accident an engine identical to the one Mr. Frankland was operating was accelerated out of Calumet under the same circumstances and reached a speed of 44 m.p.h. at the crossing).
Mr. Frankland said the dayliner's speed is only restricted on curves - 60 m.p.h - apart from crossings carrying statutory limits.
He said the train's headlamp was on as it approcahed the crossing and he gave the warning whistle and activated the bell as usual. He said it was a "fine, clear day."
The dayliner was on the crossing when Mr. Frankland first noticed the Emery truck.
He said his first impulse was to pull the emergency brake. Then he decided the best thing to do was get through the crossing and hopefully avoid the truck.
Mr. Emery said he didn't know the train was approaching until he saw it emerge from behind a line of trees when he was about 125 feet away. He said his radio was off and he couldn't remember whether his windows were raised or not.
He said he applied the brakes and swerved but was too close to avoid impact. He said he approached the crossing at a normal rate of speed.
Killed in the accident on the Ottawa-Montreal line were Bernice Doherty, 49, of Great Falls, Mont., Jeanne Marie Brunelle, of Ste. Therese, Que., both passengers in a CP Rail diesel car and Reginald St-Gelais, 24, of Gatineau, a passenger in the truck. None of the injured was seriously hurt.