From the Ottawa Citizen 11 February 1984|
Pupils spared as train hits Quebec bus
About 20 students escaped serious injury Friday when a Canadian Pacific train plowed into the front of their school bus in Gracefield, Que.
The bus driver, Donald Lemens, 44, of Lac Ste. Marie, was the only person seriously injured when the snow removal train smashed into the bus as it rolled across the tracks near Ecole Elementaire et Secondaire Sacre-Coeur in the town 70 kilometres north of Ottawa.
He is in serious condition in Ottawa General Hospital with head injuries.
Only two students required hospital treatment for minor bruises and cuts after the 3:15 p.m. accident.
One of the injured students, Guy Gagnon, 13, seated in the front on the side struck by the train, told The Citizen later that no one saw the train approaching because of the snow being whipped up in front of the train as it plowed the tracks.
Gagnon, who received a bump on the head, said while most of the students were screaming and crying, they all left the bus in an orderly fashion.
"It all happened so quickly. No one saw the train because of the powder snow flying in front of the train."
Gagnon said Lemens had stopped the bus at the crossing and checked both directions before starting across the track. Another bus had just crossed the tracks ahead of the Lac Ste. Marie bus owned and driven by Lemens.
"When he (Lemens) saw the train, he hit the brakes, but the bus slid forward on the ice. It wasn't his fault. He tried everything to stop the bus."
Gagnon said the bus was spun around by the train as the lead spreader, used to break ice on the tracks, plowed into the bus just at the front wheels. The rear of the bus then collided with the train's engine, which was behind the spreader and snowplow.
Const. Daniel Boucher, of the Maniwaki provincial police detachment, said the train conductor pulled the emergency brakes as soon as he saw the bus.
The train, which had been travelling about 55 kilometre per hour had slowed to about 32 kmh when it struck the bus.
Robert Parker, driving the bus directly behind Lemens, said he also had not seen the train until he heard the whistle. There is no warning signals at the crossing.
"All I saw was snow being blown around. I thought it was a snowplow on a nearby road. Parker, whose 15-year-old daughter was in Lemens's bus, said his heart jumped when he saw the train.
"If the bus had been struck in the middle, the bus would have been cut in half and there would have been a lot of dead children."
While the absence of signal warnings has never been an issue, parents and a school board trustee contacted Friday night, said it is now.
"We'll try to take steps to have a signal warning," said Glendon Sage, trustee for the Upper Gatineau School Board.
The CPR service train had left Hull at 11 a.m. Friday to clear the rarely used section of track for a freight train scheduled for a trip to Maniwaki next week.
The train line is only used about once a month.
Boucher said the investigation is continuing.
Ottawa Citizen 23 February 1984
Bus-train crash probed
The Canadian Transport Commission is investigating the Feb. 10 collision between a school bus and a Canadian Pacific train in Gracefield.
Peter Schnobb, spokesman for the CTC, said an inquiry was ordered because numerous lives were endangered during the accident.
About 20 students escaped serious injury when a snow-removal train plowed into the front of the school bus as it pulled out of the entrance of Sacre-Coeur school, 70 kilometres north of Ottawa.
Ottawa Citizen 30 May 1984
Driver blamed for Gracefield bus crash.
A Gracefield school-bus driver has been blamed for not having taken "necessary precautions" when his bus full of students was struck by a train Feb. 10.
In a report released Tuesday, the Canadian Transport Commission said primary responsibility for the accident belongs to the driver, who failed to open a door in swirling snow so he could see whether a train was approaching.
The 28 students in the bus escaped serious injury when the Canadian Pacific snow-removal train plowed into the front of the bus as it pulled out of the entrance of Sacre-Coeur school, 70 kilometres north of Ottawa.
The bus driver, Donald Lemens, 44, was treated for a fractured skull at the Ottawa General Hospital and was released five days later.
The report said the driver may have been "subconsciously conditioned to believe there was no winter train service" since trains only passed about once a month during the winter.
Because the driver did not open the bus door, he probably did not hear the train whistle due to the background noise of the students.
Swirling snow around the train did not allow the driver to see the approaching train, the report said.
A request by Gracefield Council to install warning lights at the crossing is being examined by the CTC. However, the CTC has reduced the speed limit of trains to 16 kmh at the crossing. There had been no speed limit and the train was travelling at : 51 kmh when it struck the bus.
Since the accident, the schedules of trains passing on the line to and from Maniwaki have been altered so they don't pass when school buses use the crossing.
Public hearings are to be held this summer to determine whether to retain the seldom-used 120-km Gatineau-to-Maniwaki railway.
Only 39 freight cars moved on the line in 1983.
The report also recommended that a copy of the report be directed to the attention of the Quebec road authorities to consider possible changes to existing road regulations.
The inquiry into the accident was ordered because numerous lives were endangered in the crash.