|Ottawa Citizen 26 August 1992|
Two killed, six injured as VIA train slams into van.
Alan Hustak glanced at his watch. 8:45 a.m.
"We'll be in Ottawa in about 20 minutes," he thought Tuesday as VIA Rail train 31 from Montreal neared a level crossing on Hwy. 138, about 30 kilometres north of Cornwall. '" Then he saw the van headed south toward the train.
"I thought, 'Christ, that guy seems to be going awfully fast.' I could see the signal lights flashing. I was mesmerized because I knew there was no way that van was going to stop."
The train slammed broadside into the van at 145 kilometres an hour.
Eight people were inside the van five women, three men. Two of the passengers Lynn Lalande, 24, of Kanata and Kelly Harris, 29, of Orleans died in the crash.
Five of the others remained in area hospitals Tuesday night. They are: Abdul Nasser Jabbari, 28, of Ottawa, who was driving the van; Nicole Grosz, 21, also of Ottawa; Stephan Rowe of Cumberland; Stacey Robinson, 19, of Gloucester; and Anne-Marie Vinet, 15, of Orleans. Vinet was in critical condition in the intensive care unit of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Christopher Zwicker, 17, from Orleans, was treated in Cornwall General Hospital and released.
Zwicker said the van's passengers were en route to the headquarters of the Farm Boy produce company in Cornwall to learn how to use new cash registers.
The 17-year-old student at St. Peter's Catholic High School said none of the seven passengers or the driver, an employee of Farm Fresh, knew each other.
Zwicker, who was sitting in the first row of the van, said he saw the train coming toward them. "I was thinking I should tell (the driver) to stop.
" He said he suddenly felt the van being pushed by the train into a blinking signpost at the crossing.
"I felt the van turning and dirt filling up. I couldn't hear or see anything, it happened so fast., The only thing I heard was first impact."
He was still strapped to his seat seat when the van stopped. He crawled out on the ceiling which had become the floor, The right side of the van, where the train hit it, was completely gone.
"I remember yelling out, 'Everybody out of the van because I saw gasoline pouring out and everything smelled like gas. But I was the only one conscious."
Four of the occupants were flung from the wreckage, The other four remained trapped in the overturned shell. Gasoline poured from the ruptured tank.
Paul Robitaille of Buckingham and Ian Macdonald from Kanata were following the van in another vehicle. They scrambled through the wreckage, cutting people loose from their seat belts.
"I went and cut the seat belts of three of them who were still in the van to get them out," Robitaille saicl. "One girl in the rear was in shock and struggling so I left her for a moment and went to the front of the van to the passenger side and cut another girl out. Then I crawled inside to cut out another guy because gas was pouring right on him."
Zwicker said the driver didn't seem to be going over the 80-km speed limit and was concentrating on the road ahead. "He didn't try to beat (the train) but there were trees and houses blocking the view of the train."
Ontario Provincial Police are investigating.
From the Ottawa Citizen 27 August 1992
Deadly crossings:train crash rate puzzles experts
A deadly phenomenon surrounds trains.
People see the train approaching. The flashing signal lights are clearly visible. They hear the warning bells. But the impending threat of thousands of tonnes of steel bearing down on them is either ignored or somehow doesn't register.
The phenomenon stumps safety experts. And it results in an alarming number of injuries and deaths each year.
"When people see a train coming, for some reason they simply dont seriously consider the danger," says Benoit Levesque, national director of Operation Lifesaver, a safety awareness program of the Railway Association of Canada.
The observation may apply to Tuesday's fatal crash between a VIA Rail passenger train and a van.
Flashing lights and warning signals were operating for 22 seconds before the van loaded with eight people drove into the train's path. Lynn Lalande, 24, of Kanata, and Kelly Harris, 29, of Orleans, were killed, and six others were injured in the crash. Five of the survivors remain in hospital with serious injuries. None of the injuries is life-threatening.
The accident occurred at 8:45 a.m. at a level crossing on Hwy. 138, about 30 kilometres north of Cornwall. There are open fields on either side of the crossing and the signals are visible on the highway from at least a half-kilometre. It's not known why the van's driver, Abdul Nasser Jabbari, 28, of Ottawa, did not stop. Police have yet to interview Jabbari, who is now in stable condition after surgery at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
Coroner Dr. Gabriel Slowey says an inquest into the accident will be held late this year or early in 1993. There have been two other fatal crashes at that crossing since 1981.
Levesque says such accidents are all too common.
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Ottawa Citizen 24 October 1992
Police charge driver in fatal van-train crash
MOOSE CREEK - The Ottawa driver of a rented van in a fatal train crash on Hwy. 38 on Aug.. 25 has been charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death.
Abdul Nasser Jabbari, 28, has also been charged with driving with an improper licence. He is to enter a plea on Nov. 20 at Cornwall provincial court.
Two of the eight passengers in the van died. Kelly Harris, 29, a mother of two and Lynn Lalande, 24, both of Ottawa, died of massive Injuries. The other passengers were injured but recovered.
Ottawa Citizen 2 July 1993
Man fined $1,000 in double fatality
CORNWALL The prosecution and defence agreed a $250 fine was penalty enough for an Ottawa man convicted of careless driving for an accident that killed two people and injured five others.
But Provincial Court Judge Michael Fitzpatrick didn't He rejected the joint submission Wednesday, bumped the fine to $1,000 and imposed a two-year driving suspension on Abdul Nasser Jabbari.
Jabbari was the driver of a minibus that slammed into the side of a VIA Rail passenger train Aug. 25, 1992 at an unguarded railway crossing on Hwy. 138, 30 kilometres north of Cornwall. The crash killed Kelly Harris, 29 of Orleans, and Lynn Lalande, 24 of Kanata.
The higher penalty was little comfort for the families of the victims.
"Both families have been through hell the last year," said Heather Lawson, sister of Kelly Harris. "Our lives have been changed forever and he's walking away from this with a $1,000 fine.
"It's hard to take."
"He got off scot-free, is all I can say," said Bernard Lalande, Lynne's father.
Jabbari, 27, pleaded guilty to Careless driving after the court ruled there wasn't sufficient evidence to convict him on the more serious charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The prosecution had earlier withdrawn the even more serious charges of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
Fitzpatrick said Jabbari was driving without due care and attention to the safety of others at the time of the accident.
But he said his driving didn't represent enough of "a marked departure" from the normal standard of care to justify a conviction for dangerous driving. He noted Jabbari wasn't drinking or speeding and was driving in a prudent manner prior to the accident.
The biggest penalty the accused would have to be pay is living with the memory that his careless driving had cost two young people their lives, the judge said.
Jabbari testified he never saw the railway warning signs or flashing red lights and had slowed down for what he thought was a bump in the road. The flashing lights activate 24 seconds before the train reaches the intersection of the highway.
It was only when he got closer he realized the bump was really the CN main line and that a passenger train was bearing down on the minibus at a high rate of speed.
The van hit the engine, was thrown into the light standard, then bounced into the train a second time. The impact flung the van upside down, and several passengers were thrown out.
Jabbari was driving a group of grocery store employees to Cornwall to learn how to operate new-cash registers. It was his first day on the job and he had never driven the bus or travelled that highway before.