Woman killed by C-Train appeared distracted before being hit, say police

Police say a 60-year-old woman glanced at her cellphone and almost walked into traffic on 36th Street N.E., then looked in the opposite direction from an oncoming train before stepping in front of it.

Woman almost walked into traffic on 36th Street N.E. before being hit by northbound train

A woman was struck and killed at the Whitehorn LRT station early Tuesday morning. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

The woman hit and killed by a C-Train in northeast Calgary appeared to be distracted before she was struck, police officials say.

The accident happened near the Whitehorn station at 36th Street and Whitehorn Drive N.E. on the LRT's blue line at about 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

Insp. Ken Thrower says the 60-year-old woman was seen on CCTV footage walking south along the platform toward the level crossing.

A southbound train went by and the woman walked east across the northbound tracks.

"She appeared to be distracted or preoccupied, not too sure," said Thrower. "She glances down at her cellphone, she almost walked out in front of the traffic on 36th Street, going northbound."

Thrower said the woman then turned around and went back across the northbound track as a train approached.

The lights were flashing warning of the approaching train, but the woman, who Thrower said appeared to be looking the wrong way, stepped in front of it and was hit.

Safety measures in place

Brian Whitelaw, superintendent of safety for Calgary Transit, said the warning lights were updated at Whitehorn station recently in response to a fatality earlier this year.

"We actually lowered the crossing lights to account for folks who may not be looking up," he said. "We were trying to lower the lights down to more eye level for people in an effort to increase awareness of approaching trains."

As well, crossing guards have been upgraded at most stations requiring people to "make at least two decisions," said Whitelaw, such as having to step left then right around metal bars before being able to cross the tracks. 

Crossing arms — like the ones used to block vehicles — could be installed to block pedestrians, like the ones at Banff Trail Station.

"We haven't had any fatalities since we've had those in place," said Whitelaw. 

Calgary Transit ran shuttle buses for several hours to get passengers north and south of the Whitehorn station while the accident was investigated. 

Second fatality this year

Tuesday's fatality is the second at Whitehorn station this year. On February 20, a 30-year-old man was struck by a train at the same crossing. Investigators believed he was wearing headphones and was distracted by his cellphone.

Since the C-Train system launched in May 1981 there have been 75 deaths at or near stations. Areas adjacent to the 36th Street LRT alignment seem to have a disproportionate share of fatalities, with 20 since the northeast line opened in 1985.