LIVE: The Transportation Safety Board releases its findings into the 2015 Langley train-ambulance collision that killed one and injured two:Posted by BCLocalNews.com on Thursday, July 13, 2017
A confusing railway crossing and a driver on their cellphone were the the causes behind a deadly collision between a train and an ambulance in 2015.
A Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed that a combination of the ambulance driver being on their cellphone, as well as confusing railway crossing signals and faded road markings were the factors behind the fatal crash.
“Accidents are almost never caused by one factor and this was no exception,” said senior human factors investigator Sarah Harris. “Although the distraction of the cellphone likely decreased the drivers ability to detect warning signals, the complex design of the crossing also contributed.”
On Sept. 11, 2015, an ambulance was hit by a freight train at a railway cross at 216th Street and Glover Road. The patient, 87-year-old Helena Theodora Van Gool of Langley, was airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital but later died. The two paramedics were injured. No train crew members were hurt.
Citing privilege, the board did not release the contents of, or any details from, the phone call. The report stated that the conversation was “complex.”
“Regardless of that and regardless of how long the conversations lasted and regardless of whether the phone was hands free or not, research has shown that this activity is distracted,” said investigator-in-charge Peter Hickli.
Harris said that double lines of railway crossings at the site of the crash, along with “contradictory” crossing markings contributed to the driver’s inability to avoid the train. The ambulance had been intending to make a lefthand turn but stopped on one set tracks when a lowered crossing gate for the opposite lane appeared to be blocking the way forward. The investigation revealed that the lowered gate would not have blocked the ambulance from driving forward, off the railroad tracks it was on.
“One possibility is that the red flashing railway lights on the righthand side may have been momentarily obscured by a crossing sign,” said Harris.
An intersection shortly after the crossing could have added to the confusion.
“These lights are designed to stay briefly green despite an approaching train in order to flush any remaining traffic from the interesection,” Harris said. “Add to this the faded roadway markings, specifically the left turn lane, which likely helped bring the ambulance in proximity to the [crossing].”
Ambulance driver's use of cellphone + possibly blocked railway crossing lights contributed to fatal 2015 train + ambulance crash in Langley— Kat (@katslepian) July 13, 2017
This isn’t the first crash at this railways crossing; there have been three prior incidents.
“In 2015, this crossing was identified [by Transport Canada] as one of the crossings of highest concern in B.C.,” said Hickli. However, new safety regulations – since implemented – were only released in 2014, giving all railways and road authorities a two years to determine which crossings needed upgrades and an additional five-year grace period in which to implement them.
“Flashing lights have been installed overhead for greater visibility, some roadway markings have been repainted and an LED sign warning of approaching trains has been added,” said Hickli.
The flashing lights and gate that control eastbound traffic were also moved to cover both tracks, Hickli noted, but warned drivers that improved sight lines, crossing signals and road makings can only do so much to prevent tragedies.