Video shows lightning strike damage that stopped LRT service in July

Security video taken by OC Transpo shows the lightning strike damage including sparking and the falling overhead catenary wire that powers trains that disrupted LRT service for four days at the end of July.

CBC News obtained the video from July 24, 2022, through freedom of information request

Five different looks at the lightning strike that damaged Ottawa’s LRT

7 months ago
Duration 0:55
Several security videos taken by OC Transpo show the lightning strike that disrupted service for four days at the end of July.

Security video taken by OC Transpo shows the lightning strike damage — including sparking and the falling overhead catenary wire that powers trains — that disrupted LRT service for four days at the end of July. 

The strike sparked a chain of events that took down 900 metres of cable.

OC Transpo's director of engineering says the investigation by the city and Rideau Transit Group (RTG) into the extensive damage and disruption to the LRT needs to conclude before any changes to the design are made.

"It's extremely unusual for a lightning strike to cause such damage to an [overhead catenary] system," Richard Holder told CBC News.

"At this point, we feel like it would be premature to make changes to the design. The design has been reviewed and it's been found to be adequate."

The video, obtained by CBC News through the Municipal Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act, shows a shower of sparks near the platform at Lees station shortly after 11:08 p.m. on Sunday, July 24.

Video from a camera pointed west at the eastbound platform shows the catenary wire falling onto the track and an additional burst of sparks across the tracks a few seconds later.

'Not a danger'

Holder said the video shows the surge of electricity following the lightning strike and both the "messenger" and "contact" wires falling onto the track.

Holder said even though the wires sparked due to the surge, there would've been no danger if the incident had happened at a busier time.

A worker in a bucket truck above a train in Ottawa in September 2021. Overhead catenary wires are seen in this photo. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada)

"Instantaneously, the power would've been dropped," Holder said. "Although they became mechanically separated, they dropped vertically into the track. So there was not a danger to passengers or commuters that would've been waiting at the platform."

He said it's unclear in the video what is causing arcing, or sparks, across the tracks.

Holder said the city has ruled out the possibility a train had somehow pulled the wires down, because it lost power. However, it hasn't confirmed whether the station, the cables or the masts that support them were hit directly.

"We are unsure of the mechanism at this point as to how the lightning caused such intense heat within the overhead catenary," he said.

Holder said the lightning arrester system worked to contain the surge and protected the traction power substations and other infrastructure beside the tracks.

The city will be checking on the existing grounding rods in the design and whether additional surge protection will need to be added, Holder said. 

At a media availability on July 26, RTG said arcing damaged some track and one LRT vehicle required maintenance at the Belfast Yard following the incident. 

In a statement, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it assessed the lightning strike incident and determined "further investigation would have little likelihood of identifying new safety lessons."


Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at and on Twitter @matthewkupfer