|Ottawa Citizen 23 August 1986|
One killed as train levels van
A Toronto-bound passenger train smashed into a light blue van on Greenbank Road early this morning, killing at least one person.
VIA officials said none of the 25 passengers on the overnight train were hurt in the 12:20 a.m. accident.
Nepean police, fire and ambulance officials would give no official statement about casualties at 2:30 a.m., but a coroner was called to the scene and eye witnesses said at least one body was taken from the wreck.
The train, travelling west on the CN tracks, hit the van at the Greenbank crossing south of Fallowfield Road and carried it about 200 metres to the Jockvale Road before stopping. The van was wrapped around the train engine, and one fender was found about 20 metres from the collision point.
At the crossing, about 30 people looked on as police and fire officials used flash lights to search the tracks for other possible victims.
Another 60 people gathered at Jockvale, where the engineer and passengers remained inside the train while the investigation continued for more than two hours.
Nepean police would say only "It's serious and we're on the scene."
David Smith, 33, was on his way to his Barrhaven home when stopped by a tangle of emergency vehicles that included seven police cars, two fire vehicles, two ambulances and two tow trucks.
He said the train and van appeared to be sandwiched together.
Carol Greenwell, also of Barrhaven, said the gates at the Greenbank crossing don't always work properly and the engineer usually blows the whistle.
"Tonight the whistle was louder than usual and then we heard a crunch," she said.
The train, with an engine and two passenger cars, left the Ottawa station at 11:59 p.m. Friday, a VIA spokesman said.
Officials said recently the overnight passenger service is to be cancelled this fall.
Ottawa Citizen 25 August 1986
Motorist hit by train likely thought he had time to cross tracks: officials
An Ottawa man killed early Saturday when his van was struck by a passenger train at the Greenbank Road crossing likely thought he had time to drive around the barricade before the train passed by, police and VIA officials say.
Nepean police today said a conductor on the train saw the van approaching the crossing at a high rate of speed. Andre Verret, of VIA's Montreal office, said: "We can't presume the results of the investigation in advance. But we've seen many incidents like this before and it looks that way (that victim drove around the barricade)."
Both VIA, the passenger rail service, and the Canadian Transport Commission are investigating the 12:20 a.m. accident in which John Billings, 31, of Ritchie Street, was killed.
Billings was returning home alone after helping his brother with masonry work Friday at a car dealership on Hwy. 16 when his northbound van collided with the westbound train.
"The barriers were working properly," Nepean Staff Sgt. Ronald Driscoll said Saturday.
Billings, married and a father of four, was to start a new job today.
"He just got off welfare and was getting into the construction business. He was just starting to get a break," his brother, Peter, said Saturday.
None of the train's 31 passengers was injured. They were delayed more than three hours before continuing to Toronto by bus.
Nepean police and VIA officials say the crossing's flashing lights, warning bells, and wooden barriers were working properly. The barriers were intact after the accident
"We don't consider it's a particularly dangerous crossing," said Verret.
"It's got everything to pre-empt possible accidents. But if somebody wants to play games, we're a bit at the mercy of somebody who wants to use their imagination."
Peter Billings, 32, a cement finisher, said his brother, had spent Friday evening learning a few tricks of the trade before starting his first job Monday.
Peter Billings said his brother Barrie, 25, saw skid marks "about 40 feet long" near the accident, which, he says, indicates their brother was trying to stop.
Ottawa Citizen 9 September 1986
Another investigation into a separate accident Aug. 23 that killed John Billings, 3L of Richie Street, has ruled he tried to drive around the crossing barrier on Greenbank Road in Nepean. "We feel that the driver had gone around the barrier," said Peter Schnobb, spokesman for the Canadian Transport Commission, which is responsible for railway safety. The commission made the ruling based on police and CN rail reports about the accident A Toronto-bound VIA Rail passenger train hit the van. Cyr said many of the accidents he's investigated are caused by driver error.