Montreal graffiti writers mourn train deaths

Police haven't released the names of the three teens killed by a Via Rail passenger train Sunday morning, but people in Montreal's graffiti community say they knew them and are mourning the deaths.

Spot where teens died is a tagging 'hall of fame,' says graffiti artist

Police haven't released the names of the three teens killed by a Via Rail passenger train on Sunday morning, but people in Montreal's graffiti community say they knew them and are mourning the deaths.

A video paying tribute to one of the dead graffiti artists has been posted on YouTube.

He went by the name Jays and the two-minute video shows some of his graffiti tags, much of them in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood.

Emergency workers carry away bodies. ((CBC))
The teenagers, aged 17, 18 and 19, had jumped over a concrete wall to spray-paint graffiti under the west side of the Turcot interchange, said Const. Annie Lemieux.

"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."

Two other young men who were with the victims were not injured but were treated for shock. At first, police said they could face charges of trespassing and mischief, but the force now says no charges will be laid.

Sterling Downey, a graffiti artist and founder of the Montreal graffiti festival, said he was surprised when he heard about the accident, but only because the teens were experienced.

"If you frequent railyards you know that Via Rail trains are the most dangerous things. So even in a case of five people painting you'd hope that maybe one person would be a lookout."

Still, Downey says danger comes with the territory.

"It's a reality ... of this game or this culture ... and I understand how something like this can happen," he said.

A Montreal graffiti writer who goes by the name Omen said the area where the teens were planning to spray-paint is popular with graffiti artists because they're well-concealed and their tags are seen by many people.

"It's kind of a high-risk area, but it's a good area to hit because it's seen by all the commuters ... they're highly visible and that's the attraction. It's like a little hall of fame."

He agreed with Downey that sometimes the hobby can be dangerous and wonders what kind of "peer training," if any, the teens received.

"When I learned how to write trains, I learned with another guy and it's common sense with a little bit of overcaution, because it's not like street writing."

Yannik Leaunier, who works at a plastics factory across the street from the graffiti-covered concrete where the youths were hit, said "there's young kids coming here almost every night doing graffiti on the wall. We see them parking here often."

Two cars belonging to the graffiti artists were still parked near the tracks hours after the accident. Inside one were cans of beer, a couple of skateboards and a can of red spray paint.

'A sad reminder'

The train was on its way to Montreal from Toronto when the accident occurred around 3 a.m. ET Sunday.
Emergency workers investigate after arriving at the scene where three teens were struck and killed by a Via train.

Elizabeth Huart, who speaks for Via Rail, said "obviously the message just doesn't go through .... trains can't stop ... and this is a sad reminder."

She said the company is offering counselling to staff members who witnessed the grisly accident. "This is something that our locomotive engineers will never forget. It's a very traumatic experience."