|Ottawa Citizen 6 June 1999|
Two Killed as Train Hits Car
Man, woman from Brockville area die at construction site
ELIZABETHTOWN A man and a woman from the Brockville area died after a VIA Rail passenger train rammed into their car yesterday afternoon at a rural railway crossing 90 kilometres south of Ottawa.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the white, four-door car drifted slowly through flashing railway crossing warning lights, where it was broadsided by a train, throwing it into the air and shredding the passenger side.
"I saw this white car pass the laneway and I thought, 'Oh my God,' and started yelling, because I could sense where the train was," said Mary James, who was gardening at her house near the tracks when the accident happened. "The train hit it right on and the car went right up in the air and came right down."
The Ontario Provincial Police did not release the names of the victims, who were pronounced dead at the scene by coroner Dr. Paul O'Connor.
The train was travelling northbound to Ottawa when it struck the eastbound car in a construction zone. The train sustained only minor damage and no one on board was hurt, according to OPP Sgt. Kevin Prentiss.
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The Elizabethtown accident occurred in a slight dip along County Road 28, within sight of four houses. Construction work has been ongoing at the intersection. Immediately after the accident, work crews and nearby neighbours rushed to the scene, according to nearby resident Rob Pringle.
Mr. Pringle witnessed the accident from his verandah.
He said the car disappeared behind the train as soon as it was hit, and the next time he saw it, it had spun 180 degrees. He ran over to help, but some construction workers on the scene had already gotten there.
After finding out how bad it was, Mr. Pringle said he turned to stop his wife from getting too close. "I knew it wouldn't be a nice thing to see," he said.
Mrs. James' husband, Barry, went to the crash site after hearing the collision from his basement. He said the midsized car "couldn't have been more than two-feet thick."
The car's driver didn't seem to have seen the train, and neither vehicle seemed to be breaking before the collision.
"I don't know if he was distracted or what," Mr. Pringle said. "For some unknown reason, he just kept going."
About six hours after the accident, the rumpled car was pulled from its resting spot several metres north of the crossing and taken away on a flat-bed tow truck. It was severely damaged the passenger side door pushed more than half way across the vehicle.
Police and rail officials were taking measurements to try to determine what happened after the initial collision, checking the flashing lights and interviewing witnesses.
"It's very, very early in our investigation right now," said Const. Mike Benn of the OPP Brockville detachment. "We have to examine every angle of what happened before the true picture will come out."
The car was thrown about 13 metres down the track northwards. A team of construction workers toiled under generator-powered floodlights to repair a huge gouge in the pavement made by the car after it was struck. Every half hour or so, another train would rumble through the scene.
The train was en route to Ottawa from Toronto, stopping at Oshawa, Cobourg, Kingston, and Brockville.
Seven minutes late pulling out of Brockville, train 642 hit the car at 2:20 p.m. yesterday.
In Ottawa, a VIA official said a visual inspection was made at the crash site. After the train was deemed safe it carried 100 passengers to Ottawa, but was two hours and 45 minutes late, arriving at 5:55 p.m. almost seven hours after leaving Toronto.
"I spoke to one passenger who said it felt like a car driving onto the gravel shoulder," said VIA ticket agent Arthur LeClerc. He said most of the passengers accepted the incident and the delay, and were not overly upset.
"The people usually understand when there is that kind of accident where there are fatalities. It's not like a mechanical problem. They don't blame VIA"
The train was supposed to collect about 45 passengers in Ottawa bound for Montreal, but those passengers were put on a bus chartered by VIA and given a 50-per-cent credit on their next trip with railway. Train 642 continued to Montreal last night without passengers, according to VIA spokeswoman Julie Durocher.
"Well, they weren't too crazy about taking the bus," said Mr. LeClerc. "They we here to take the train." The bus, he added, "is not as comfortable as the train. Not only that, it's a lot safer by train."
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Ms. Durocher said the crossing where the collision occurred in Elizabethtown is classified as "protected" with warning lights and bells but no barricades to prevent highway traffic from passing through.
Mrs. James's husband, Barry, said people often drive through the warning lights at the crossing, which has no barricade.
"People drive across these tracks like idiots all the time," said Mr. James, adding that the crossing is dangerous because the tracks dip into a valley after the train has finished a long curve, giving drivers little warning of oncoming trains.
Mrs. James added: "It was all like slow-motion in a split-second. You could tell the train wasn't going to stop. If people could see how quick this was, they would stop at railroad tracks."
Mr. James said the crossing hasn't had an incident like this since two men tried to race the train 25 years ago. One of the men died and the other was seriously injured in that crash. That accident prompted authorities to erect warning lights and install bells.
Ottawa Citizen 7 June 1999
Police Hunt for clues in deadly collision
Train-car crash killed Algonquin retiree, wife
By Jake Rupert
OPP investigators spent yesterday trying to piece together exactly what happened leading up to the moment a VIA Rail train crashed into a car on a level crossing north of Brockville Saturday.
John Edwards, 70, and his wife Carol, 54, were killed instantly when the impact of the train left their white Mercury Sable a tangled mess of steel.
Brockville OPP Const. Mike Benn says all possible explanations for the crash are bemg.examined.
The collision happened at about 2:20 p.m. on Leeds and Grenville County Road 28 at Bellamy's Crossing a location Mr. Edwards had driven through many times before.
Witnesses said the lights and bells at the crossing were working when the eastbound car, travelling at a slow but steady speed, entered the path of the train, which was going north to Ottawa from Brockville at about 130 kmh.
The engineer of the train would not have been able to see the car until the last instant because the track curves just before the crossing. Drivers travelling east on the county road would also have trouble seeing the train as roughly two-metre-high mounds of dirt run parallel to the tracks leading up to the crossing.
Workers from an engineering company were digging up the road on the east side of the tracks at the time of the crash to lay fiber optic cable. It isn't known if the construction work played a role in the accident.
"We'll be checking out everything," Const. Benn said. "Right now, we just don't have enough information to say why this happened"
Const Benn and Sgt. Kevin Prentiss will base their findings on witness statements, information gleaned from a detailed technical reconstruction of the collision and an examination of what's left of the car. Autopsies are also being done today on the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards.
News of the accident travelled quickly through the small communities of North Augusta and the village of Algonquin, 15 kilometres north of Brockville, where the couple, who had been married nearly 35 years, lived.
Yesterday, everybody knew who had died and expressed their sympathy for the members of the well-known Edwards family.
"It's really been a hard day around here," said the Edwards' neighbour Richard Thompson, 43. "They'll be missed. They were good people."
Purvis Weir, a friend who has known Mr. Edwards for 60 years, described him as "a great family man who has raised two lovely boys. He was an all-round nice guy who worked hard, and so did his wife who was a registered nurse."
People in Algonquin described Mr. Edwards, a retiree, as a quiet man who was friendly to all. He was also an avid walker who could be seen walking for miles along the rural roads checkering the rolling green landscape in the area.
When contacted, the Edwards' adult children could not bring themselves to talk about the loss of their parents.