Senior’s impaired vision likely cause of fatal crash between train, vehicle in Montreal: Report

The man's driver’s licence had been suspended in Nov. 2018 following a report by a health-care professional stating that he was unfit to drive due to his impaired vision. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mario Beauregard

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its report on Monday investigating a fatal crash between a train and a vehicle in Montreal last winter, and found that the incident was likely caused by a senior driving with impaired vision.

On the morning of Feb. 18, 2020, a 74-year-old man died in Ahuntsic-Cartierville at the intersection of Gouin Boulevard and Poincaré Street, when the vehicle he was driving was struck by a train, according to Montreal police.

The train, an EXO commuter locomotive, was travelling on the Saint-Jérôme line and was carrying 232 passengers, according to the TSB.

The TSB’s inquiry found that both train crew members — a locomotive engineer and a conductor — were qualified for their respective positions, met rest and fitness requirements, and were familiar with the territory.

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The report also found that both crew members did all the required actions after seeing that a vehicle was stopped on the crossing: the train’s horn and bell were sounded, the emergency break was triggered and the headlights were on at full power.

Read more: Man, 74, dies after collision between train and vehicle in Ahuntsic-Cartierville

The train struck the car at 42 mph before slowing to a complete stop about 200 metres further down the tracks. The incident was captured by a nearby business surveillance camera.

The driver was taken to hospital where he died from his injuries. The passenger, a 33-year-old man, was brought to hospital in critical condition but survived.

Authorities said the passengers and conductor on the train were unharmed in the incident.

According to the report, the 74 year-old driver of the car was taking a driving test and the passenger in the vehicle was an evaluator from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).

The elderly man’s driver’s licence had been suspended by the SAAQ in November 2018 following a report by a health-care professional which stated that the man was unfit to drive due to his impaired vision.

The driver had requested a second review from the SAAQ due to his vision having stabilized, which led him to the road test that day, where the SAAQ was going to determine whether he had developed compensatory abilities which would allow him to drive safely.

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The TSB’s report states that the passenger tried unsuccessfully to intervene with the driver when it was clear that the train was heading toward them, asking him several times to move forward to clear the tracks. According to police, witnesses say the vehicle behind the car blew its horn and a nearby firefighter on the other side of the track was waving his arms to alert the driver to advance.

Another factor that could have contributed to the incident was the weather. The report says it was snowing heavily and visibility was reduced that morning, and that snow covered the tracks and the painted marks on the pavement.

All safety measures at the crossing — flashing lights, bells and the gate — were functioning, according to the TSB.

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