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Railway crossing where Ste. Anne girl died needs to be safer for cyclists: report

The rail crossing where an 11-year-old girl was hit by a train in a small Manitoba town needs improvements to make it safer for cyclists, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says.

Kharma Brown, 11, was riding her bike in September when she was hit by a train

Kharma Brown, 11, died in September after being hit by a train in Ste. Anne. (CBC)

The rail crossing where an 11-year-old girl was hit by a train in a small Manitoba town needs improvements to make it safer for cyclists, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says.

Kharma Brown was riding her bike in Ste. Anne — about 45 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg — in September when she was hit by a train near a pedestrian crossing that runs through the tracks.

The train was following regulatory requirements and had blown its horn as it approached the crossing, the Transportation Safety Board said in a letter dated Oct. 26, which followed an investigation into the death.

The train was travelling about 60 km/h.

While the crossing was fine for people walking, the investigation into the death found that vegetation and nearby bungalows could have obstructed the view for a cyclist. 

The letter said that in 2014, the private crossing was being used by the public as the town expanded into the area. As a result, the town applied for, and received, approval from the Canadian Transportation Agency to install a public crossing. 

It created an S-shaped concrete sidewalk with a chain-link fence along the side. There are also standard railway crossing signs and a high-speed train warning.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the rail crossing in Ste. Anne met the regulations for pedestrians, but needs to be upgraded for cyclists. (CBC)

While the crossing was designated for pedestrians and followed the guidelines for people crossing on foot, it was used often by people on bikes, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, the TSB's letter said.  

Since people riding bikes and ATVs move faster, they need to be able to see the train sooner than a pedestrian but the trees and buildings in the way may prevent that, the letter said.

The Transportation Safety Board suggested the area should be upgraded. Its suggestions for increasing safety include installing pipes that would make pedestrians and cyclists stop before crossing the tracks, widening the crossing approach, and installing flashing lights, bells and gates at the crossing. 

The letter also pointed out other hazards at the crossing. It said there was a gap between the sidewalk and the hardwood crossing ties, creating a potential tripping hazard. The crossing is also set up so that people have to focus downward, instead of looking for trains.

Kharma Brown's father Randy previously told CBC News she had only move to Ste. Anne from Wichita, Kan., about a year before her death. He called for changes to the crossing to make it safer, including a walkway raised over the rail line to allow people to cross above moving trains.