When Diane Harel starts talking about her late son Steven, her face lights up.
But it’s not easy talking about her son, who would’ve turned 31 on Saturday if he hadn’t been killed in July 2016 when he was struck by a train.
“He loved life. He loved people and people loved him,” Harel said.
Steven Harel, 29, was fatally struck on July 27, 2016, when his wheelchair became stuck in the gravel at the edge of a sidewalk at the public crossing on Robinson Street at 1:45 a.m.
“When we heard the news that Steven had been hit by a train, we knew exactly where it was,” Harel said.
Harel said her son was always concerned about this railway crossing in Moncton’s downtown core. He and his friends even approached officials at city hall to voice their concerns, which she claims went unanswered.
Thursday the Transportation Safety Board released its report into the July 2016 collision. It determined that conditions at the Robinson Street crossing contributed to the accident.
A void in the asphalt caused Harel’s chair to become lodged for up to 50 minutes before he was struck by the train.
Forte Law has launched a lawsuit against CN Rail, the City of Moncton, a medical equipment supplier, a wheelchair manufacturer and retailer for damages related to Harel’s death.
“Our big fear and the fear of the Harels is that it could happen again,” said lawyer Stephanie Leahy.
The Harels say they aren’t necessarily pursuing the lawsuit for financial gain but rather to raise awareness across the country about safety concerns at railway crossings just like this one.
“That’s the message we want to send to the city, to the government, to CN. Whoever is responsible, just fix it,” Harel said.
A CN Rail spokesperson said in an email that the company works continuously with Transport Canada and road authorities in communities across Canada to ensure crossings are safe.