|Ottawa Citizen 14 March 1964|
Friday 13th crossing crashes kill five
A 22-year-old taxation employee was killed in a Scott Street level crossing crash at Tunney's Pasture Friday afternoon, seven hours after a car-speeder collision on Wood-roffe Avenue which killed four men.
George William LeBel of 563 Chapel St. was killed when the car he was riding in was struck by the westbound Canadian Pacific transcontinental train at Ross Street.
Shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday, which was Friday 13th, Willis White. 60, of RR 2 Bells Corners, Antoine Per-rier, 48, of Moose Creek, and John Passaw, 29, of Renfrew were killed when their light track car was struck by an auto.
A fourth man, James Knox McLean, 59, of 3011 Base Line Rd., died in the Civic Hospital about 6 p.m.
The Scott Street mishap was preceded by a number of coincidences which contributed to the crash.
A fire drill at 4.10 p.m. sent income tax employees home seven minutes earlier than usual.
LeBel, with Edward Lane, IS, of 702 Chapel was walking towards the bus stop when Rolf Posma, 22, of 187 Second St. stopped his car and asked the pair if they wanted a lift.
"As Rolf started up he and Bill were joking about something. Rolf had his head turned towards Bill.
"The next thing I knew we were about five feet from the tracks and I saw the train and heard the whistle. Rolf stopped the car but it was on the tracks. He tried to put the car in reverse but the gears jammed and the car wouldn't move forward or backwards. He swore.
"I sat there and waited for the train to hit. I grabbed onto something in the back of the car, I don't know what it was. It w as only about a second or two from the time I saw the train until it hit.
"I sat there and watched the train hit. It spun the car around in a circle."
"I got out of the car and looked around for Bill. I couldn't see him but Rolf was about 20 feet away beside the tracks.
I ran down to see if he was still alive.
"Bill had been thrown about 10 feet. His head had struck the curb. He was dead when I got to him," he said.
Lane was treated at the hospital for minor injuries. Posma, badly shaken up, was admitted for observation but his condition was reported as good.
Ottawa Citizen 14 April 1964
Testimony at inquest prompts adjournment
Testimony by three railwayman into the Friday March 13 death of a 22 year-old taxation employee caused an Ottawa coroner to adjourn a Monday evening inquest.
"Because of confliction, we're going to have to get more witnesses including the city solicitor and a host of others." said Coroner Dr. W. T. Kendall.
The inquest jury had heard seven of 26 witnesses called by the Crown to testify in the death of George William Lebell of 568 Chapel St., killed after the car he had accepted a ride in was struck by a transcontinental train at Scott Street and Ross Avenue.
Three of the witnesses, including engineer William Shorthouse of 1 Daly Ave., fireman Frank Alexander of 1220 Carlling Ave. and CPR assistant-superintendent W. J. Koehn of 1212 Meadowlands Drive, had testified as to the train's speed and rules governing it within the city.
All three said the train was limited to 35 miles per hour until it reached the city limits at Parkdale Avenue.
Dr. Kendall objected, saying the city limits extended farther than this.
'Something wrong'"Holland Avenue is the geographic centre of the city of Ottawa, yet the city limits as far as the railway is concerned is one block east of this street," he said. "There's certainly something wrong here."
Mr. Koehn said the railway had established the city limits at Parkdale as the result of a Board of Transport Commissioners order of 1918, issued when Parkdale Avenue was the city's western limit.
"It's up lo the city to apply to the board to change its order extending the city limits sign on the right-of-way," he said.
Mr. Koehn testified that, as a result of the lioss Avenue fatality, the board had "as a matter of course'' issued a "slow order" of 25 miles per hour over the crossing, west of Parkdale Avenue.
Engineer Shnrthouse said the train usually proceeded at about 10 miles per hour as far as Ottawa West, then increased its speed to between 20 and 22 miles an hour.
Traffic heavyHe said traffic was heavy at all crossings in the city's West End on the day of the accident.
Earlier, Dr. Maxwell Klotz, chief pathologist at the Ottawa Civic Hospital testified that the victim died of a fractured dislocation of the neck that "caused death almost immediately."
The inquest continues tonight.
Ottawa Citizen 15 April 1964
Inquest told of five minute ride to death
The eye-witness account of a five-rmnute ride that ended in the March 13 death of a 22-year-old taxation employee was unfolded on the second night of a coroner's inquest Tuesday.
I had overheard Rolf (Posma) I say he was going uptown after work and I asked him for a lift after we got out of work," said Edward Lane of 25 Adelaide St., an auditor with the government's taxation division at Tunney's Pasture.
Rolf Posma was the driver of a 1956 Volkswagen in which George William LeBel was a passenger when it was struck by a CPR transcontinental train Friday, March 13. near Ross Avenue and Scott Street.
LeBel was killed in the crash just five minutes after he and Lane had accepted a ride from Posma.
"We got in the car about 100 feet from the railway crossing," said Lane. "I got in the back seat and Bill got in the front.
"It was the first time I got paid and there w as a lot of excitement. Bill had turned around, talking to me, and I had mentioned to Rolf that he change the radio station as we crept along in the bumper -to-bumper traffic.
Glimpsed train"As he switched the station, I saw the train about 150 to 200 feet down the track," said Lane. "I didn't really see it, I just caught a glimpse of it.
"1 didn't say anything," he said. "Then Rolf looked up and saw it.
"He put on the brakes and the car stopped on the track while I watched the train coming."
"Roif was trying to get it in reverse, I heard it grind, I looked down at the gearshift and up again and I knew we were going to get hit then.
"After the train hit us, I jumped out the left hand side of the car and my first thought was to find Bill and Rolf.
Lying near tracks"I saw Rolf lying near the tracks, went down to see if he was all right and saw Bill. I bent over him, opened his eyelid, and knew then that he was dead," he told the jury.
Posma, testifying under the protection of the Canada Evidence Act, told the inquest of the events he remembered concerning the crash.
"All I can remember is being hit."
"I can't say I panicked," he said. "I thought I'd have enough time to put the car in reverse and back up."
He told the jury that he had heard the train's whistle for the first time when it was about 50 to 60 yards away.
"All I can remember after we were hit was .being carried away on a stretcher," Posma said.
3 days in hospitalHe spent three days in hospital with a fractured collarbone and multiple cuts to his body. Lane was uninjured.
The inquest also heard 12 witnesses describe what they saw. Most were fellow workers. The inquest resumes this evening.
Ottawa Citizen 16 April 1964
All parties get blame in railway track death
In a three-page handwritten verdict, an Ottawa coroner's jury has blaired all parties involved in the March 13 death of 22-year-old taxation employee William LeBel.
Coroner Dr. W. T. Kendall termed it "the longest verdict of my career."
The recommendationsAfter two hours and 40 minutes of deliberation, the jury recommended Wednesday night:
- That specific warning systems at both the Holland Avenue and Ross Avenue CPR crossings be established.
- That sidewalks for pedestrians be provided north cf the tracks on Ross Avenue.
- That Ross Avenue be widened from its present 28-foot width.
- That the city of Ottawa specifically petition the Board of Transport Commissioners to bring railway regulations up to date and adopt uniform city limits.
LeBel died when the small car in which he was a passenger was struck by a CPR transcontinental train near Scott Street and Ross Avenue.
Sent home early
The accident happened five minutes after the government's taxation department was sent home early because of a fire drill.
The jury said the events "combined to produce a set of circumstances which made disaster almost inevitable."
Dr. Kendall referred to it in his address to the jury, before they retired, as "almost an act of God."
"We find that the operation of the train and the condition of its emergency equipment were in conformity with the required standards," the jury's verdict stated.
"However, the train crew sensed that traffic across the tracks was unusually heavy and under the circumstances the engine driver could well have throttled back and braked the train to slower speed immediately after passing Holland Avenue.
"He knew there were no warning lights at Ross Avenue and he saw the continuous stream of traffic over the track at Ross Avenue, which indicated that something unusual was taking place, since normally the traffic over the crossing at that time was limited."
'Conditioned'The jury also said that a number of drivers had become "conditioned" to crossing the tracks without paying attention to the railway traffic.
The jury also blamed the Department of Public Works for not providing adequate warning safeguards for personnel at the crossing; the passengers "who contributed equally to the inattention of the driver;" and the driver himself.
"The driver of the vehicle cannot be absolved of his responsibility to operate the vehicle with due caution under the circumstances," the jury said.
"The driver had taken none of the usual precautions to insure the safety of the vehicle and his passengers when approaching the crossing."
The jury found that LeBel died of a fractured dislocation of his neck "by being flung from the right-hand front seat of the car." It noted that the use of safety belts could "possibly have been instrumental in avoiding the fatality which occurred."