Train crash victims and their survivors call for safer railway crossings
Warning lights, bells and gates should be standard at all crossings, they argue
A man who lost both arms and one leg after being hit by a train southwest of London is among a growing chorus of citizen voices calling on railway companies to install lights, bells and warning gates at all crossings.
Jason Zsoldos was riding his motorcycle at night on a rural road near Bothwell, his helmet muffling the sound of the approaching train, when he saw the locomotive's light bearing down at the crossing marked with only a warning sign.
"I was on the ground for approximately 20 minutes and a passerby happened to find me. He went and got help and saved my life," said Zsoldos recalling the 1994 accident.
Zsoldos spent the next 10 years learning to function with three prosthetics while also fighting what he calls the battle of his life against Canadian Pacific Railway in the courts for a settlement.
"One of the early [CP] lawyers dealing with the file in effect laughed at me and told me I was wasting everybody's time and everybody's money," said Jim Mays who represented Zsoldos in the settlement case they eventually won.
"They really treated our case with a great amount of disdain," Mays explained saying the railway didn't believe Zsoldoz couldn't see the train.
Grieving mother sued after fatal crossing crash
About 20 kilometres from where Zsoldoz was hit, the safety of another rail crossing was contested for years by a mother whose 22-year-old son was killed by a train in 2011.
Sharon Jobson's son John was hit at a crossing near Glencoe that had two sets of tracks but no bells, lights or gates, despite Transport Canada guidelines that say gates should be used when there are two or more tracks.
John's truck was hit by a west bound passenger train.
"Everybody said 'Don't speak up, you're going to get in trouble," Jobson recalls. "I said, 'I don't care if I live or a die right now.' So I let them have it vocally and I got sued."
Her son's estate was served for $3.5 million in damages by CN, VIA and two passengers, a lawsuit Jobson said she learned was dropped after CBC London started making calls.
Jobson was successful in having lights, gates and bells installed at two crossings in her area, including at the crossing that killed her son, but only after she circulated petitions and met with multiple public officials.
Other crossings contested as 'dangerous'
CP is currently facing another lawsuit for an accident at a crossing in British Columbia that also had no automated bells, lights or gates to warn of oncoming trains.
- 'Unbelievably dangerous': Woman sues after crash at rail crossing flagged for safety fixes since 1990
London is also home to Canada's most dangerous crossing according to an analysis conducted by CBC News which found there have been 12 accidents since 2000 at the downtown St. George Street crossing. CP has recently installed automated gates and the city has reconfigured traffic flow.
In London's east-end, citizens are still fighting for pedestrian gates at Third Street where 11-year old Kendra Cameron was killed in 2012.
In a statement to CBC London, railway officials said crossing safety is a priority and they are committed to working with road authorities to make improvements.
"With thousands of crossings along our network, each is assessed on its own merit as to the type of protection best suited for that crossing," CP said.
But, that isn't good enough for Jason Zsoldos.
He says the cost of warning signals should not outweigh someone's life. And, both Zsoldos and Sharon Jobson worry about the day high speed rail comes to town.
"There's a lot of people getting killed out here with people doing 100 kilometres an hour. How many people are going to get killed when people are doing double or triple that amount of speed?" he said.
- An earlier version of this story stated that "John [Jobson] drove his truck over the first set of tracks but was hit by a passenger train travelling on the second track." In fact, Jobson was hit by a west bound passenger train as he crossed the tracks.Jun 14, 2017 6:32 PM ET
- An earlier version of this story stated that John Jobson's estate was being sued by CP. In fact, his estate was being sued by CN.Jun 14, 2017 6:43 PM ET