After horrific accident, safety top of mind for commuters at Roxboro train station

At Roxboro-Pierrefonds train station, safety was top of mind for commuters Wednesday morning after a teenager was critically injured after being hit by a train the night before.

Teenager critically injured after she was hit by an oncoming train while crossing the tracks

A commuter crosses the tracks at Roxboro-Pierrefonds station early Wednesday morning. A 17-year-old girl was critically injured while crossing there Tuesday. Police say she was wearing headphones at the time. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

At the Roxboro-Pierrefonds commuter train station Wednesday, safety was top of mind for many commuters a day after a collision between a train and teenage girl.

Montreal police say the 17-year-old girl was crossing the tracks to catch a train heading downtown when she was grazed by an oncoming train, fell onto the track and was dragged 15 metres.

She suffered multiple injuries to her head and lower body and was taken to hospital in critical condition. Her condition has since stabilized.

Police have ruled the incident to be an accident, and are no longer investigating.

Caroline Julie Fortin, spokesperson for the Réseau transport métropolitain (RTM), which oversees the Greater Montreal area commuter train network, said the incident is a rare occurrence.

She said the RTM's teams have been campaigning in schools and at stations to promote rail safety.

"Anytime you are close to a train track, you have to be very careful. It's just like crossing a road," Fortin said.

According to Urgences-Santé, three other people, including two train conductors, were taken to hospital to be treated for shock. The identity of the third person is not known.

The teenager was crossing at the designated crossing when she fell. There is only one pathway to get across the tracks at that station.
Michel Farahat lives right by the train station and took this photo Tuesday evening after the train hit the teenager. (Submitted by Michel Farahat)

There is a sign warning people to "stop, look and listen" before crossing. Police say the teen was wearing headphones at the time. 

'It was awful'

Catherine Norris lives in Pierrefonds and has been taking the train for 20 years; she also works in the railway industry. 

Norris said upon approaching the station, she heard "unnerving" train whistles blow, which she took to mean that someone was near the tracks.

She was in the second wagon of the train that had left the Montreal terminal at 4:30 p.m. and said she felt the impact as the train hit the teenage girl.

"My friend and I turned looked out the window. And basically we saw everyone with their hands up over their face. There was a woman with her small child that was crying," Norris told CBC News.

A teenager was crossing the train tracks at this crossing, at Roxboro-Pierrefonds station, when she fell and was dragged by an oncoming train. On the left, a bilingual sign warns people to be aware as they cross. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Norris said she was in "shock, disbelief." She was also frustrated, she said, because it wasn't the first time she'd witnessed someone get hit at the Roxboro-Pierrefonds platform.

Seven or eight years ago, Norris and her husband were on the platform when a woman was "thrown onto the platform" after crossing at the same place where the 17-year-old was struck Tuesday.

She said she feels it is "absolutely ridiculous" that there are no safety bars installed at the crossings.

"A large group of people has requested year after year that barriers be put up. For whatever reason, it is not done," Norris said.

Catherine Norris was on the train when it hit the teenager crossing the platform. Norris says she's been advocating for barriers preventing people from crossing when a train is coming. (CBC)

"The onus is on the person to, of course, look. But there is really no warning at all, and those trains are coming awfully fast." 

Norris said she thinks there could also be better signs warning people that trains often approach from both directions at the same time, as happens a few times each day.

Commuters worried

Other commuters at the station agreed the crossing isn't as safe as it could be. While people are warned to check before they cross, there is nothing to indicate a train is about to pull away from the station.

"It's a simple solution, just put a little gate to warn someone when a train is coming and all this could have been avoided," said Roy Tuazon.

Commuters in a hurry often try to dash across, sometimes without looking, in order to catch a train on the other side.

"There are always people trying to get across and catch train they're after. Sometimes they run in front of trains. Most of the time people are very prudent and make sure they're safe, but sometimes not," said Geoffrey McKay.

François St-Pierre said the situation is sad, but pointed out the fact that commuters are warned to be careful.

"You're distracted for two seconds and that's it," he said.

With files from Lauren McCallum and Sudha Krishnan