|Ottawa Citizen 14 February 1998|
Trucker dies in violent crash with passenger train
A 40-year-old trucker from Wakefield died horribly in Carlsbad Springs yesterday when his tractor-trailer collided with a VIA train at a level crossing, about 15 kilometres east of Ottawa.
Regional police said the driver of the truck, Robert Emery, was northbound on Boundary Road, approaching Russell Road, when his vehicle collided with the train carrying 63 passengers and crew.
The accident occurred just before 9 a.m. No one else was seriously hurt.
Doug Renaud, working in the Carlsbad Variety store on Russell Road, rushed outside when he heard and felt the impact.
He said the warning signals and bells at the level crossing were working when he turned the corner and saw dirt and diesel from the crash hanging in the air.
"At first, all I saw was the trailer at the crossing," Mr. Renaud said. "Then I looked down the track and saw the cab. I went down the track with some other gentlemen from cars that were stopped at the crossing and we saw the driver. He'd been thrown out and we knew we couldn't help him. The emergency teams arrived pretty quickly."
The tractor unit was hauling two flatbed trailers, one carrying farm equipment that was undamaged and stayed on the road.
About 20 metres west of the point of impact, the second trailer lay in the ditch with debris and two telephone poles that had been knocked down; another 20 or 30 metres farther on at the end of the debris trail were the crushed remnants of the white tractor unit.
The driver's body lay five metres from the wreck.
The train, disabled by the impact, stopped about a kilometre west of the collision site.
After about two hours on the stopped train, most of the 58 passengers trudged about 100 metres across a snow-covered field to board buses to finish their journey.
Some older passengers and children were ferried to the buses on police snowmobiles. Firefighters assisted with luggage.
Most passengers brushed past journalists, declining to comment. But before she was hustled onto a bus by a firefighter, Lou Tremblay said she had been looking out the window at the time.
"I saw a big truck on the road. It was really near the tracks, then we hit."
At the time of the collision, the sun was low in the cloudless sky. The straight, level stretch of Boundary Road leading to the crossing is flanked by open fields and was dry.
The No. 31 train left Montreal for Ottawa at 6:45 a.m. with a crew of five, including two engineers. No one on the train was hurt in the 8:55 a.m. crash, said VIA Rail Canada spokeswoman Dianne Graham.
However, regional police Insp. Sue O'Sullivan told reporters on the scene one crew member was complaining of sore ribs. She added there were eyewitnesses to the crash but would not comment on what happened in the seconds leading up to it.
The speed of the train has not been released, but Ms. Graham said the speed limit along that section of track is 128 kmh. And the train might have been running late, given its scheduled Ottawa arrival time of 8:49 a.m.
Officials are expected to review data from the train's "event recorder," similar to an airplane's so-called black box, that records the movements and actions the engineer makes with the locomotive.
Yesterday's crash was the second fatal train-vehicle crash along the same stretch of track, owned by CN Rail, in less than two years. In May 1996, a woman was killed when the van she was driving collided with a Montreal-to-Ottawa VIA passenger train at another protected crossing on Russell Road, near Anderson Road.
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Without prejudging what led to yesterday's crash, CN Rail spokesman Pierre Leclerc said the vast majority of train-vehicle crashes are caused by motorists trying to beat trains to the crossing.
"They have to be patient and they have to realize that sometimes it's better to wait two more minutes than to be killed, or risk your life, for trying to save one or two minutes of your time."
Mr. Renaud said there have not been problems at the Carlsbad Springs' crossing, although he remembers a truck's bumper being ripped off by a train "a couple of years ago. But he was stopped just too close to the track."
He said some people disregard the warning signals because they know that freight trains, especially, activate the lights and bells a while before they actually get to the crossing. "They (freight trains) slow down on this stretch, but VIA never does. They just go too damn fast.".