|Ottawa Citizen 27 November 1993|
Two engineers shaken after secnd fatal train-car crash
Another train-car crash in the area has left an Alexandria man dead, the victim of suicide, and two train engineers shaken, the victims of a terrible coincidence.
The man was killed Friday after driving his Honda on to the tracks in front of an Ottawa-Montreal VL Rail train carrying about 100 passengers and travelling 120 kilometres an hour. No one on the train was hurt.
The two engineers running the locomotive are the same men who were operating the train that hit a police cruiser in Casselman and killed two OPP officers a month ago.
It was the second train-car accident this week Two women were killed in Arnprior Wednesday when their car was struck by a freight train.
Officials involved in Friday's crash say the engineers, Randy Allan and John Culhane, both from Ottawa, could not have done anything to avoid the collision.
"Both have a lot of experience," said Alex Kocsis, an investigator with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. "They did everything right."
One of the engineers was in especially bad shape after the accident because of the "mental stress building up in him," said Kocsis, who spoke to the men after the crash.
VIA spokesman Malcolm Andrews said counselling is available to the two engineers, should they request it. They asked to be replaced at the train's controls after the collision, Andrews said. "They just wanted to go home."
Coroner Dr. Guy Genier said he is convinced the death was a suicide. He said the man would have had to open manually a gate leading to the train tracks to get his car through. The crossing was on a seldom-used private road and was well marked, Genier said.
The engineers apparently saw the man's car pull on to the tracks when the train was within view. They pulled the emergency brakes when about 50 metres away from the car, but it was too late. The car was pushed more than 700 metres along the track.
The accident was the 14th at a railway crossing in the National Capital region this year, according to the safety board. Despite the rash of deaths at train crossings in the past month, the number of such accidents is lower than it was this time last year, said Ghyslain Charron, of the safety board.
Including Friday's fatality, 20 people have died at Ontario train crossings since Jan. 1, nearly half the national total of 46 so far this year.
This time last year, 24 people had died in Ontario at train crossings. The number of non-fatal accidents has also been reduced, Charron said.
"All the investigations, after years of research show us that in 85 to 88 per cent of accidents there is the human factor," said Charron. He said accidents are often caused when the vehicle occupants are distracted by something.