Police say three young people are dead after being struck by a Via Rail train in southwest Montreal.

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Emergency workers attend to the victims at the scene of a train accident in Montreal. Three people died and two others were taken to hospital in shock. ((CBC))

The train was on its way to Montreal from Toronto when the accident occurred around 3 a.m. ET Sunday.

Police say five people, between the ages of 17 and 20, were walking next to the railway tracks and three of them were hit by the train.

Two of them were dead at the scene and one died later in hospital.

The two survivors were taken to hospital suffering from shock. Police said they hoped to interview them to find out why they were on the tracks.

Montreal police Const. Anie Lemieux said the initial investigation suggests the youths may have been spray-painting graffiti. It's believed they had parked their cars near the scene before heading to the tracks.

Lemieux said they were in an area where it would have been difficult to hear trains approaching.

"This is a pretty dangerous spot for hearing trains because you don't hear them coming as well as you should," she said. "It's possible they didn't hear the train coming fast enough to move off the tracks, so that's what investigators will be trying to understand."

When the accident occurred, passengers were taken off the Via train and bused to the nearest station. Via service later resumed.

With files from The Canadian Press