|Ottawa Citizen 3 January 1999|
Pakenham area man killed at rail crossing
Passenger train collided with pickup truck
A 56-year-old Pakenham-area man was killed yesterday when his pickup truck was sliced in half by a VIA Rail passenger train at O'Neil and Dwyer Hill roads, west of North Gower.
The cab of the truck was dragged for about a kilometre and jammed under the locomotive, preventing the Toronto to Ottawa train from moving for 6 1/2 hours. The 129 passengers remained on board the train and were taken by bus to Ottawa.
The collision was the third-level crossing accident in Eastern Ontario since Nov. 21.
The crash, at a private crossing marked only by a stop sign, propelled the box of the 1988 silver grey General Motors truck into a nearby ditch and left the area strewn with the rear axle, a wheel and other parts.
Police said the southbound truck collided with an eastbound VIA train at about 12:45 p.m. Investigators said they could not release the man's name until he has been positively identified.
VIA Rail spokesman Malcolm Andrews said there have been too many level crossing accidents recently in Eastern Ontario because drivers aren't careful enough. Mr. Andrews said motorists should slow down and stop, especially in rural areas where there are no warning lights and roads are slippery.
Linda Kilby, who lives across the road from the crossing, said she heard a loud banging noise when her husband was leaving for work.
"My husband said he saw a truck at the crossing as he was backing his car out and all of a sudden there was nothing," Ms. Kilby said. "We knew there had been an accident so we grabbed some blankets to help, but there was nothing left of the truck. It is so sad there was nothing we could do."
Ron Holmes, who lives beside the crossing, said it is difficult to see approaching trains because they are partly hidden by bushes, a CN Rail hut and a large pile of railway ties.
"The problem is that this crossing is controlled by only a stop sign," Mr. Holmes said. "At Dwyer Hill there is a proper crossing with lights and a gate that comes down.
"Here you can't see the trains because of the brush close to the tracks and the shed near the crossing. It's hard to see anything coming because the railway piles material close to the tracks for repairing the whole line."
Donald Ross, an inspector from the Transportation Safety Board, said he was investigating the accident to determine whether there was a clear line of sight at the crossing.
"Level crossings are always a concern because of accidents," Mr. Ross said. "We will check the large shed which is near the tracks to see if there is enough visibility. But people should take extra care at unprotected crossings like this."
Two other recent level crossing accidents killed one man and left another with serious injuries.
Brian Friesen, 34, of Smiths Falls died when his 1990 Ford Tempo collided with a northbound VIA train at a crossing in Rideau Lake Township on New Year's Eve.
A unidentified 28-year-old Carlsbad Springs man suffered broken bones, cuts and bruises when his truck was crushed by a freight train in Carlsbad Springs 15 kilometres southeast of Ottawa on Nov. 21.
Ottawa Citizen 4 January 1999
Improve visibility, Via urged
Investigators say man killed had not stopped at crossing
By Dave Rogers
Via Rail and property owners should improve the visibility at railway crossings to reduce the risk of accidents like the collision that killed a Pakenham-area man Saturday, the president of Transport 2000 said yesterday.
Harry Gow said railways must ensure that drivers can see approaching trains because of the large number of level crossing accidents in Eastern Ontario during the past year. Mr. Gow added drivers should be cautious when approaching high-speed passenger lines, especially during the winter, when their windows are fogged and roads are slippery.
Allyn Richard Warren, 56, died when his grey 1988 GMC pickup truck was sliced in half at O'Neil and Dwyer Hill roads at about 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
Jacques Babin, a spokesman for the federal Transportation Safety Board, said Mr. Warren didn't stop at a private crossing on a driveway off O'Neil Road. He said trains are visible more than a kilometre from the crossing. An investigation of the accident is to be completed today or tomorrow.
The 145 passengers on the Toronto-to-Ottawa train had to wait 6 1/2 hours for a bus to Ottawa because the cab of the truck became wedged under the locomotive.
Via Rail spokesman Malcolm Andrews said there has been an "inordinate number" of level crossing accidents in Eastern Ontario during the past year. Mr. Andrews said drivers should be more careful in rural areas so they can stop at warning lights and uncontrolled crossings.
People who live near the crossing where Mr. Warren was killed complained that visibility is limited by bushes growing near the tracks, piles of railway ties and gravel, and a CN maintenance shed.
Mr. Gow said private crossings are one of the worst railway hazards.
"There must be an examination of visibility at railway crossings to reduce the danger to human life," Mr. Gow said. "But you have to stop at the crossing signs. People who think they can take a chance are often dead wrong.
"There have been level crossing accidents at Carlsbad Springs, Mer Bleue and at least three bad collisions within 20 miles of the Dwyer Hill area during the past few years. People began to think something was wrong when a police car was hit near Casselman about five years ago."
Robert Spack, a Transport 2000 member who has worked for CN Rail and Via Rail, said the passenger trains travel at more than 150 kmh near Dwyer Hill. He said drivers crossing Via lines should be cautious because trains travel so quickly.
"I have been in a locomotive cab and have seen the way people drive and I am surprised there isn't a level crossing accident every day. Some people will stop in a crossing or even back up to look at the train."
Wayne Millar, Mr. Warren's neighbour, said his friend was checking his trap lines in the Marlborough Forest before the accident. He said Mr. Warren had been a banker and realtor before moving to the Pakenham area six years ago, but his real love was hunting deer and trapping beaver.
"You couldn't ask for a better neighbour," Mr. Millar said. "Before Christmas he called and said he wanted to see me in five minutes. He brought us a great big plate of cookies, squares and chocolates and wished us merry Christmas. That was the last time I saw him.
"I always saw him three or four times a week and we would stop to chat. He would ask my son how he liked university and told us we could count on him if we ever needed help."
Heather Kincaid, the minister of Cedar Hill United Church near Pakenham, said Mr. Warren had worked in banks for 20 years, but loved the outdoors.
"A very dear man has been lost in this tragic accident," Ms. Kincaid said. "He was a hard-working family man. He had a son and two daughters.
"The family wondered how the accident happened and whether he saw the train. This is a real tragedy."