A disabled man waited an “excruciatingly long time” on Moncton, N.B., railway tracks after his electric wheelchair allegedly became stuck, according to a new lawsuit claiming damages in his death.
“Steven Harel knew his fate. He knew the train was going to hit and kill him, and that must have been awful,” lawyer Brian Murphy said Monday.
Harel’s family filed a statement of claim in New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench this month.
The court documents claim Harel was using the wheelchair in a “safe and prudent” manner when it became stuck and immobilized at the railway crossing before he was fatally struck by a CN train at 1:45 a.m. on July 27, 2016.
“The CN train could not stop in time. No one is faulting the conductor of the CN train, but there is no way he could stop from colliding with Stephen Harel,” Murphy said.
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.
WATCH: RCMP on the scene of a fatal train collision in Moncton on Wednesday, July 27
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.
“The level crossing at that location, and at many locations, pose threats to people in wheelchairs,” Murphy said.
The documents say Invacare Canada and Embracor Medical, which manufactured and sold Harel’s wheelchair, respectively, are both liable in his death for their roles in providing him a wheelchair the lawsuit claims was “unreasonably dangerous” due to an alleged defect.
“We do know his wheelchair got lodged there. We do know these wheelchairs should be, had to be, designed for people like Mr. Harel who are crossing railway tracks in railway cities like Moncton, N.B.,” Murphy said.
CN Rail spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis called Harel’s death a “terrible tragedy,” but declined to comment further, citing pending litigation and the ongoing Transportation and Safety Board of Canada investigation.
Representatives for the City of Moncton also declined to comment on an active case, and the other two defendants could not immediately be reached.