Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1933 May 25 - Crossing collision Britannia, CPR., Carleton Place sub., one fatality

Ottawa Journal 26 May 1933

Gerard Legault, aged 6, is killed by locomotive

Dashes Past Guard at Park Gateway and is Struck by C.P.R. Passenger Train.

Six-year-old gerard Legault, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Henry Legault, 330 Clarence Street, was instantly killed by a Canadian Pacific Railway Ottawa-Pembroke passenger train at Britannia Park about 5.15 p.m. yesterday. Running from his parents to the train, the child dashed through the open gate way, past a constable on guard and was struck by the side of the locomotive.

The father, who witnessed the tragedy, stated that the north barrier, nearest the Ottawa River, at the level crossing at the park was up, enabling the boy to pass the constable stationed there and get on the right-of-way.

Guards Always on Duty.

Electric Railway officials stated they understood an agreement existed between their company and the C.P.R. for the lowering of the barrier gates each time a train passed, but that as a rule the gates were not dropped unless there was a crowd at the park, although guards were always stationed to warn people away.

The accident occurred just towards the close of a happy holiday for the Legault family. Mr. and Mrs. Legault, who had driven to Britannia in the afternoon with six of their 10 children, were walking from the beach to the parking area on the south side of the C.P.R. and O.E.R. tracks at the time and were just passing the entrance to the rest pavilion to the northeast of the crossing, as the train whistled.

"Gerard wanted to go to see the train, which we could hear coming from the city," Mr. Legault told The Journal. "We could see the men in uniform at the gate and we thought it would be all right to let him go, because they were there.

"The constables were standing facing each other so that the one on the north side of the crossing did not see Gerard. I think the gate on the south side was down, although I am not sure, but I am positive the gate on the north side was still up. Gerard ran up to the crossing, past the constable and into the locomotive."

Thrown 20 feet.

The boy was thrown about 20 feet and the train was stopped within a couple of hundred feet. After a few minutes delay, the train, a local leaving Union Station at 3.50 p.m., standard time, for Pembroke, continued on its journey. Witnesses all agreed that the whistle was sounded on the approach of the train to Main Street, Britannia, and the park crossing.

It was stated at the sub-divisional offices of the C.P.R. here that the accident would be investigated by the Divisional Superintendent at Smiths Falls, where the train crew would file a report. No one reported the accident to the County Police, who heard of it only by chance. Constable Sydney Tucker inquired into the circumstances before an inquest opened by Dr. R. M. Cairns, coroner, at the parlours of A.E. Veitch and Son, Parkdale Avenue. After the body was identified by Mr. Legault, the inquiry was adjourned until 8. p.m. Monday at the county courthouse, Nicholas Street.

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Six westbound and five eastbound passenger trains travel this line every day, which is the C.P.R. route to Pembroke, Brockville and Toronto. Numerous freight trains travel this way as well. On Sunday there are five westbound and four eastbound passenger trains.

An overhead bridge provides absolutely safe passage over the crossing a few feet west of the gates.

After an informal inquiry late last night S.R. Banning, O.E.R. accident investigator, stated that the men at the gates where Michael F. Goodwin, superintendent of the park, who was on the south side, and Howard McGuire, a special constable, who was on the north.

"Both gates were up according to my information, since there was hardly anyone inside at the time," Mr. Banning said.

Mr. Banning said the boy ran from his father, who was a considerable distance from the crossing and was not noticed by the guards until he had slipped by Mr. McGuire and practically tumbled into the site of the speeding engine.

Ottawa Journal 30 May 1933

Adjourn inquest into boy's death
Crown wants evidence of responsibility for Britannia crossing gates.

As no evidence was produced to show if the gates were placed at the crossing, at the order of the Railway Commissioners or by the Ottawa Electric Company voluntarily, the inquest into the death of Gerald Legault, six-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Henri Legault, 330 Clarence Street, who was killed when struck by a C.P.R.. train at the level crossing at Britannia Park, on May 26, was adjourned for two weeks, until Tuesday, June 13th.

The adjournment was made at the suggestion of J.A. Ritchie, K.C., Crown attorney, who stated that there should be something to show how the guard gates got there, and on whom the responsibility has been placed for the opening and closing of them. Officials of the O.E.R. and the C.P.R. were instructed to search their records for some agreement which might exist.

Mr Ritchie also said if the street railway company had placed the guard gates there voluntarily, there was no obligation on it to operate them, but if they had been placed there on the recommendation of the Railway Board, the whole situation would be altered.

Evidence of the park keepers showed that to the gates had been left open at the time of the accident, and that "they were only closed when there were a lot of people around."

Michael Goodwin, superintendent of Britannia Park, told coroner Dr. R.M. Cairns and his jury that the park office has never had been given specific instructions concerning the guard gates, and they "just exercised their own judgment as to whether they should be closed or not."

Mr. Goodwin said the young boy had run through the open gate on the north side and was struck by the train. Mr. Goodwin said he himself was standing on the south side in company with Charles Hill, park officer, while on the north side of the gate was Christopher J. McGuire, a carpenter in the employ of the street Railway.

Mr. McGuire said he "just happened to be at the gate, and had no obligation to operate it". He had been fixing some of the buildings in the park. Mr. McGuire said young Legault had passed him so quickly it had been impossible for him to stop him.

Other Witnesses heard were J. Henri Legault, father, and Delval Legault, brother of the dead boy; Charles Hill, park officer; Wilson Smith, fireman of the C.P.R. train; Carl Baxter, conductor; J.G. McNally, trainmen, and W.E. Hamilton, luggage man.

Eley Huard, engineer of the train, will be heard when the coroner's court meets on June 13th, as he was out of town last night.

James Wilson, watching the case for the Ottawa Electric Railway company, told the coroner that he believed the gates had been placed there around 1900, but he had been unable to find any agreement concerning them. Cuthbert Scott, Counsel for the C.P.R, said the steam railway company had not been able to locate any agreement.

Henri St. Jacques, KC., represented the the Legault family.

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Updated 21 February 2021