A Transportation Safety Board report issued July 23, 2019 into the death of a man at the Broadway rail crossing in Chilliwack in May 2018 found the flangeway gap is a persistent problem for people in wheelchairs. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

B.C. rail crossing death highlights risks for people in wheelchairs: watchdog

Transportation Safety Board points to ‘persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices’

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) says the May 2018 fatal railway crossing accident at Broadway Avenue in Chilliwack highlights “the persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices.”

The TSB’s report released July 23 reiterates the need for improved safety at railway crossings for people using wheelchairs.

Matthew Jarvis died on May 26, 2018 when a CN freight train struck him after his wheelchair got stuck on the tracks. Two motorists attempted to save Jarvis before the collision.

One of them, Julie Callaghan, suffered serious injuries when the train struck her hand. Her injury is so bad that she needs to have her hand amputated, and she has been repeatedly called a hero for her actions.

• READ MORE: Heroism medal for Chilliwack woman who tried to save man in a wheelchair stuck on rail tracks

What led to the terrible accident just after 5:30 p.m. that day is a persistent problem for wheelchair users at all railway crossings, according to the TSB.

The motorized wheelchair Jarvis was in on May 26, 2018 had caster wheels 50 millimetres (mm) wide, half as wide as the narrowest gap next to the rails at the Broadway Crossing, referred to as a flangeway. The TSB found that when Jarvis, who was travelling southbound, stopped with the rear wheels on the south rail, he then moved the motorized wheelchair in the opposite direction.

“As a result, both rear caster wheels likely rotated and fell into the 103 mm gap at the crossing, known as a flangeway, between the sidewalk and the rail,” according to the report.

Impending changes to flangeways coming in 2021 as required by Transport Canada will reduce the maximum flangeway width to 75 mm.

“This reduction, however, would be insufficient to ensure that caster wheels of 50 mm, such as those involved in this accident, do not become lodged in the flangeway,” the TSB report found.

The detailed TSB report outlined the agonizing seconds before the impact that day.

• At 1733:27 (5:33 p.m. and 27 seconds), Jarvis began moving on to the crossing as the train was 6,706 feet from the crossing heading west.

• At 1733:34, he crossed the north rail, stopped between the rails and looked west and then east.

• At 1734:26, he moved the wheelchair in the opposite direction resulting in one of the rear wheels becoming lodged in the flangeway gap of the south rail, immobilizing the wheelchair. Addition movement resulted in the second rear wheel becoming lodged as well. At this point the train is 2,640 feet from the crossing.

• At 1734:34, the wheelchair still immobilized as the crossing gates begin to descend. The train is 2,110 feet away.

• At 1734:56, Callaghan and another woman attempted to move Jarvis to safety. They get the two rear wheels out but can’t move the wheelchair. The train is 592 feet away and the locomotive horn is sounded continuously for two seconds.

• At 1734:59, three seconds later the train is 410 feet away and the two motorists are still trying to help.

• At 1735:01, the motorists keep trying, the train is 280 feet away, and the locomotive is sounding its horn.

• At 1735:04 the train strikes Jarvis in the wheelchair, the two motorists attempt to jump out of the path, but Callaghan was struck and Jarvis was killed.

• READ MORE: One dead, one injured after being struck by train in Chilliwack

The TSB reported that following the investigation of a previous crossing accident involving a motorized assistive device in Moncton, New Brunswick in 2016, the TSB recommended that Transport Canada (TC) work with stakeholders to identify engineering options for the improvement of crossings designated for persons using assistive devices.

TC agreed with the recommendation and reported that measures were taken to identify and assess engineering options that would help improve crossing safety for wheelchair users.

“The TSB has assessed the TC response to the recommendation as having Satisfactory Intent.”

Transport Canada also issued a notice of non-compliance to CN that identified a number of safety concerns with the Broadway Street public crossing. TC also issued a notice to the City of Chilliwack concerning issues with the sidewalks and road approaches, and the city has improvement work scheduled for this summer.

• RELATED: Train whistling to halt soon at three Chilliwack crossings

• RELATED: Elderly man killed at Chilliwack rail crossing

• RELATED: Man who committed suicide at Chilliwack rail crossing remembered one year later

signoff

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skidegate daycare staff recognized for creative care during COVID-19

Staff have been using social media to share isolation activities, read stories and sing songs

Village of Queen Charlotte approves business facade improvement grants

Applications from Gather, dental clinic, A Level Up approved, leaving about $14,000 up for grabs

Recycling services in Queen Charlotte, Port Clements expanding next week

Residential plastics will be accepted again, but most residential transfer stations remain closed

‘At least they’re safe:’ Arrival of new Syrian refugee family to Haida Gwaii delayed due to COVID-19

Operation Refugees says family stuck in Lebanon with no flights, ‘but at least they’re safe’

‘Good news:’ Council of the Haida Nation releases guidelines for expanding social circles

Next steps also say outdoor spaces such as parks, playgrounds, trails may be reopening for day use

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Most Read