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News release

Associated links (R18V0127)

May 2018 fatal railway crossing accident in Chilliwack, BC, highlights the persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices

Richmond, British Columbia, 23 July 2019 – In its investigation report (R18V0127) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) reiterates the need to improve safety at railway crossings designated for persons using assistive devices.

On 26 May 2018, a Canadian National Railway Company (CN) freight train travelling westward through Chilliwack, British Columbia, struck and fatally injured a pedestrian in a motorized wheelchair at the Broadway Street public crossing. The pedestrian’s wheelchair had become immobilized on the crossing. Two motorists, who had stopped at the crossing, exited their vehicles to assist the pedestrian before the collision; one of them was struck by the train and sustained serious injuries.

The investigation determined that the motorized wheelchair became immobilized when the pedestrian, who was travelling southbound, stopped with the rear wheels on the south rail, then moved the motorized wheelchair in the opposite direction. As a result, both rear caster wheels likely rotated and fell into the 103 mm gap at the crossing, known as a flangeway, between the sidewalk and the rail. The investigation also found that impending changes (effective in 2021) to designated crossings, as required by Transport Canada’s (TC) Grade Crossings Standards, would reduce the maximum flangeway width to 75 mm. This reduction, however, would be insufficient to ensure that caster wheels of 50 mm, such as those involved in this accident, do not become lodged in the flangeway.

Following the investigation of a previous crossing accident involving a motorized assistive device in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 2016 (R16M0026), the TSB recommended (R18-01) that TC work with stakeholders to identify engineering options for the improvement of crossings designated for persons using assistive devices. In its response, TC agreed with the recommendation and said it had taken measures to identify and assess engineering options that would help improve crossing safety for persons using assistive devices. The TSB has assessed the TC response to the recommendation as having Satisfactory Intent.

Following this accident, TC issued a notice of non-compliance to CN that identified a number of safety concerns with the Broadway Street public crossing. TC also issued a notice to the City of Chilliwack concerning issues with the sidewalks and road approaches. In response the city arranged for an engineering assessment of the crossing and subsequently coordinated the completion of improvement work scheduled for summer 2019.

See the TSB investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376