Train Accidents in Canada on the Rise

Edited by Admin
Train Accidents in Canada on the Rise

With the memory of the tragic Lac-Mégantic train derailment still fresh in the minds of many of us, recent statistics that show train accidents in Canada are on the rise at an alarming rate. According to the Transportation Safety Board there were 1,170 accidents in Canada in 2018, up from 1,091 in 2017. This is an increase of 7%. In addition, accidents involving dangerous goods increased to 125 from 115, a 9% increase. Canada is the second-largest country in the world, with a population that’s wide spread. Railways helped to create this country, and they are still very important in moving goods and people across Canada. Obviously, rail safety needs to be a greater consideration.


A History Marked by Railway Accidents

In July of 2013, the tiny community of Lac-Mégantic in Quebec was the site of a terrible train derailment. Forty-seven people died after an unattended freight train moving crude oil rolled into the village and derailed, resulting in fire and explosions. It was the deadliest train accident in Canada since Confederation in 1967. In addition to loss of life and injuries, the oil spill polluted the land and water in the area. Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) was charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence for their fault in the accident, as it was found that there were insufficient braking systems in place. Because the use of older tank cars may also have been a contributing factor, new regulations require rail companies to replace these.


The Lac-Mégantic accident is a recent event, but throughout our history, railway accidents have been an ongoing problem. For example, in 1979, a Canadian Pacific train carrying caustic, explosive, and poisonous chemicals derailed near Dundas Street in Mississauga. Styrene, toluene, caustic soda, and chlorine spilled onto the tracks and into the air, and several tank cars full of propane exploded, causing a fire. The cause of the derailment was found to be a broken rear axle due to overheating of a wheel bearing box. Officials evacuated the city for several days – a mass evacuation that was only surpassed by the one that happened in Louisiana in advance of Hurricane Katrina. Although the city remained deserted for days, no injuries were reported, and it came to be known as “The Mississauga Miracle.”


In a even deadlier incident, during January of 1910 the derailment of a CPR passenger train killed forty-three people. The train was travelling too fast when it hit a faulty rail as it crossed the Spanish River, west of Sudbury, Ontario. Two cars plummeted into the freezing river, while others rolled down the embankment. A similar incident occurred pre-Confederation, when a broken axle on the engine of a CPR passenger train caused it to crash through the deck of a wooden bridge and into the Desjardin Canal near Hamilton. Fifty-nine people died, and others were injured.


Derailments occur often enough for us to be concerned, but collisions have also caused death and injury. In 1947, near Dugald, Manitoba, a Canadian National train collided with a local locomotive because the CNR train failed to turn onto a siding when it should have. Thirty-one people died, partly due to the fact that war-time rationing of steel had made it necessary to keep old wooden passenger cars in service. When the trains crashed, the gas lamps in the cars ignited the wood, resulting in a terrible fire. In 1986, near the Alberta town of Hinton, a freight train and a Via Rail passenger train met head-on at nearly 100 km/hour. Twenty-three people died, and many more were injured. The cause of the crash was found to be human error on the part of the crew of the freight train, but since almost all of the crew members were killed, it was difficult to ascertain why it happened.


Of course, many less spectacular incidents involving trains happen every year in Canada. These include derailments causing chemical spills that result in breathing difficulties for people, train-automobile collisions, train-pedestrian accidents, and more.


Compensation for Injuries or Death

When a train accident occurs, who can be held responsible? That may depend on the circumstances of the accident. If it can be proven that the rail company violated safety regulations, or that the crew may of failed to act responsibly, the injured party (or the next-of-kin of someone who died) may be able to sue the train company. If a municipality is involved, as in a 2013 accident in Ottawa where a city bus driver was likely distracted just before the bus collided with a train, it may be held liable. Even if you were a pedestrian, there are scenarios where the rail company may be liable for damages.


If you or a loved one has been injured in any kind of train accident, contact a personal injury law firm today. Most firms offer a free initial consultation with a lawyer, and can give you advice about your options. Contact a personal injury lawyer today and get the compensation you deserve.