New Brunswick

'We're satisfied': Family of man killed at Moncton rail crossing reaches settlement

The parents of the late Steven Harel, who died at the age of 29 when his wheelchair got stuck at at downtown Moncton railway crossing, have settled their lawsuit.

Tragic death of Steven Harel leads to safety improvements at level rail crossings across the city

Diane and Yvon Harel often hear from friends of their late son, Steven, who use wheelchairs. Diane says she feels happy and satisfied when they tell her they can easily roll over the improved railway crossings. (Jean-Philippe Hughes/Radio-Canada)

The parents of the late Steven Harel, who died at the age of 29 when his wheelchair got stuck at a downtown Moncton railway crossing, have settled their lawsuit.

Harel's motorized wheelchair became stuck in the gravel at the Robinson Street crossing in July 2016 as he was on his way home from a friend's house.

Investigators believe he could have been stuck on the tracks up to 50 minutes before a CN freight train struck and killed him.

"We lost a big part of our family," his mother, Diane Harel, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Steven Harel, 29, died on July 27, 2016, after his wheelchair got stuck at a level crossing in downtown Moncton. (Diane Harel)

Diane and Yvon Harel filed a lawsuit against CN Rail, the City of Moncton, wheelchair manufacturer Invacare Canada and medical equipment supplier Embracor Medical alleging negligence.

The couple said railway crossings were not properly inspected, maintained or repaired.

Brian Murphy, the lawyer representing the Harel family, said there has been an "amicable resolution" of all of the claims made by the family, but he refused to discuss any details of the agreement.

"This wasn't a suit based on making buckets of money," he said. "This was a suit based in hurt and based in a conscience that wouldn't go away on the part of these two lovely parents that lost their son."

Lawyer Brian Murphy says the lawsuit was settled 'amicably.' (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Diane Harel said she and her husband find comfort in the fact that improvements continue to be made at railway crossings in Moncton and across the country.

Harel said everything her family has done to improve safety at railway crossings has been for the friends of her late son who use wheelchairs to get around Moncton every day.

"We lost our son and it's a daily thing you don't forget," she said. "It's not going to bring him back, but at least if we can do it for his friends. That's a lot for us."

Crews are working on rail crossings in downtown Moncton. (Paul Landry/CBC)

Of the improvements that have been made so far, she said: "We're satisfied. Just so long as they keep going."

Murphy believes the Harel family has probably "saved multiple lives" by launching the lawsuit and forcing improvements.

"It's not over for the Harel family," Murphy said. "Every day they go by a rail crossing in the city of Moncton or probably anywhere else they think about what happened that damaged their family, and what might have been done to prevent that."

In April, the federal government announced it would spend $1 million on rail safety upgrades in Moncton, including the intersection with Robinson Street where Harel died.

The City of Moncton had no comment on the resolution of the lawsuit.

A CN Rail spokesperson said the company doesn't comment on matters of settlements.


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