Let there be light

by Jack Locke

In the investigation into the deaths of 3 young men killed by a VIA Rail train on Oct. 31 near the Turcot tunnel in Montreal, the issue of light must be illuminated.

Here’s the situation: Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, Ricardo Conesa and two other teens are on CN-owned tracks at 3 A.M. A late-running VIA passenger train is barreling along at 70 miles-per-hour to deliver a small trainload of people to Montreal’s Central Station. The train kills the three named individuals. Why?

It was an accident, but why did the three young men not have adequate warning to step to safety?

In the United States, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration sets rules for the headlights of trains.

“Each headlight shall be arranged to illuminate a person at least 800 feet ahead and in front of the headlight,” states the safety standard.

The idea is to allow both the train’s engineer and the person in front of the headlight to take action to avoid a disaster. It’s an eminently reasonable safety measure.

In 1936, an American firefighter, Jeremiah D. Kennelly, came up with the idea of installing an oscillating light that moves to allow greater warning for those in the path of his fire truck. His invention was picked up by the railway industry. It’s called a gyrating light.

The website trainweb.org provides much information on these lights.

“Gyrating lights are effective warning devices. They instantly show the exact spot where danger lies. The beam color and wide sweeping action command immediate attention. A visual signal can be perceived long before an audible one. A moving beam of light can cover a much larger area than a stationary beam. These lights are especially useful in rural areas at grade crossings. They also are useful in areas of high noise levels where background noise might negate the sounds of the oncoming locomotive,” says the trainweb website.

The location where the three teens were killed has been described as an area of high noise levels where multiple freeways perch overhead.

I’ve not been able to ascertain what kind of light the VIA Rail train had in operation on the morning of Oct. 31. I have requested a copy of the VIA Rail accident report from their media liaison Elizabeth Huart. She said she would get back to me to let me know whether I could see a copy.

According to lawyer and University of Ottawa law professor, Michel W. Drapeau, the report should be available for viewing.

“VIA RAIL is subject to the ATIA(Access to Information Act.) The accident report is accessible under the law as the ‘investigation’ is now completed,” writes Drapeau in an email.

While there may be some exemptions for disclosing information contained in the accident report, now is not the time for secrecy nor darkness.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This ends installment 5 of the Investigation into the deaths of Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, and Ricardo Conesa—an accident that shook our nation.

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2 Responses to “Let there be light”

  1. publicpoetry Says:

    Reblogged this on Lockeblog and commented:

    I am reposting my series on The Turcot Train Tragedy as it approaches the second anniversary of that horrible event. Alas, with no government accountability. Installment 5.

  2. Sreddam Says:

    I have read your blogs and find them of interest. I note you have spoken with my son. I’m not sure how I feel about that part. However..i find some interesting points missing from your blogs. For instance..Via trains are usually finished running by 1:00 A.M. the terrible night of Oct 31, 2010 they were still running at 3:00 A.m..
    As I understand it someone was killed in Toronto 3 hours before our boys here in Montreal. That is why there was a train at 3:0 A.M. in the first place, secondly because of the death in Toronto they switched the track that the train was on !
    So in reality these trains killed three teens and on additional person in Toronto…that is four people in four hours. On top of that they tried to make the teens criminals but suggesting they were spray painting that night. Shame on Via. So many little kids have died and no one wants to take on The Big Via Rail.
    Who buy the way pays the advertising dollars to the news and print company and therefore could play a spin to the story as they pleased.
    NO ONE DESERVES THIS DEATH for any reason.Corporate companies know the areas of concern for such events, they have always know and NEVER do anything to lesson the risk. Nor do they answer for any:accidents” that occur. Shame on the public and the government for not standing up to correct these issues. Simple lights and horns in high risk areas would save many lives.

    What I know is we will always live this this horrible tragic event that has brought us to our knees with pain and grief.

    But 4 lives in 4 hours with no answers seems just wrong.

    God bless all the families who have ever had to deal with this gross injustice and tragedy.

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