'He didn't see or hear the train coming': Police say 13-year-old wore earphones when fatally struck by train

Witnesses have told police that the 13-year-old pedestrian killed by a commuter train in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough Wednesday afternoon had headphones on and his phone in hand.

Witness says train often travels 'way too fast' into the station, creating a dangerous situation

The Bois-Franc station, where the boy was killed Wednesday, was again busy with commuters Thursday morning. (CBC)

Witnesses have told police that the 13-year-old pedestrian struck and killed by a commuter train in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough Wednesday afternoon had headphones on and his phone in hand.

The boy was hit by the Exo Deux-Montagnes commuter line while crossing at a pedestrian walkway at the Bois-Franc station just before 4 p.m., said Montreal police spokesperson Const. Jean-Pierre Brabant.​

With earphones on and his eyes on his phone while crossing, "he didn't hear or see the train coming," said Brabant.

Police are still reviewing surveillance camera footage to confirm what witnesses are saying, he said. 

While distraction may have played a role in the boy's death, a regular train commuter told CBC Montreal that he has long been concerned about how fast trains enter that station — creating a dangerous situation at a busy, ungated crosswalk and platform.

"I saw that train coming in, and it was way too fast," Michael Mcgregor told CBC Montreal.

He was in the first car of the westbound train, stopped just before the crosswalk when the eastbound train, horn blaring, collided with the boy.

The westbound 348, he said, always stops near the Bois-Franc station due to the track configuration as it allows the eastbound train to arrive.

Witness says slower speed may have saved boy

Mcgregor said it was the sound of the train's frantically blowing horn that first caught his attention.

"I didn't see the actual accident itself, but I heard the train blowing its horn, and I also saw how fast the train was coming into the station, and all of those factors made me think that that was wrong."

The train should be travelling at 20 km/h to 40 km/h to protect people in the area, he said.

There are signs at the Bois-Franc station warning pedestrians to stop, look and listen before crossing tracks. However, there are no automatic gates to stop pedestrians from walking in front of trains. (CBC)

"That way he would have had a chance to stop," he said. "I think the child would have had a chance of surviving if that train arrived much slower."

Nobody knew what had happened at first, but it became obvious that something tragic had happened when it was announced there would be a two- to three-hour delay and emergency vehicles began arriving on the scene, he said.

Service in both directions on the Deux-Montagnes line was cancelled in the early evening.

A commuter crosses the tracks at Roxboro-Pierrefonds station in 2017, a day after a 17-year-old girl wearing headphones was critically injured while crossing the track at that spot. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

"We had got no other detail except police were directing us to exit the train and leave the station and stay away from that area," he said.

"We all had to find our own way home."

Commuters call for crosswalk barriers

There are similar crosswalks along the route that, like this one, don't have gates, said Mcgregor.  It's something that should be improved upon, he said.

Mcgregor isn't the only one who feels that way.

Waiting for a train Thursday morning, regular commuter Caitlin Bard said she had only just heard about the incident. While shocking, she said the news didn't come as a surprise.

"People sometimes can't see when the train is coming, and it's quite silent, actually," she said.

There are automatic pedestrian crosswalk barriers at the Mont-Royal train station. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

When crossing at the crosswalk with her fellow commuters, Bard said she is sometimes afraid that even the stopped trains could start moving without warning.

There are signs telling people to look and listen before crossing the tracks but, she said, more should be done as people are easily distracted, focused on where they're going and not always aware of the dangers around them.

Like Mcgregor, she has seen barriers at other stations.

They're something that should be "implemented at every single train station," she said.

Katelyn Bard says the Bois-Franc station crosswalks need automatic barriers to stop pedestrians from crossing when trains are in motion. (CBC)

For now, police are not commenting on the safety of the station.

Exo spokesperson Elaine Arsenault called it an "unfortunate accident."

Given that there is an ongoing police investigation, she said, Exo will not comment further.

With files from Matt D'Amours