MONCTON, N.B. – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is calling on federal and local authorities across the country to improve safety at railway crossings designated for people using wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
The recommendation follows the July 2016 death of Stephen Harel, whose wheelchair became stuck and immobilized at the railway crossing on Robinson Street in Moncton before he was fatally struck by a CN train.
The TSB says its investigation found that several crossing conditions contributed to the accident, including a void in the asphalt and the lack of visual clues to navigate safely.
TSB board member Faye Ackermans says despite new standards introduced in 2014, there remains a clear need for additional improvements.
Since the accident CN has made several repairs to the Robinson Street crossing and the city has designated it as a crossing for persons with assistive devices.
Harel’s parents are suing CN Rail, the City of Moncton, a wheelchair manufacturer and a medical equipment supplier in New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench for unspecified damages related to his death.
The lawsuit alleges that CN Rail and the City of Moncton neglected their “duty of care” to inspect, maintain and fix the railway tracks, crossings and city streets and sidewalks, and also failed to facilitate safe public transportation and prevent accidents, particularly with regard to wheelchair-specific hazards.
Among the claims detailed in the lawsuit, none of which have been proven in court, it’s alleged the city and the railway company were both aware that the railway track was a source of accidents for wheelchair users, and failed to take corrective measures.