Something odd about train passenger list – police can’t account for about 12 people – they seemed to have just walked away.


By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 27, 2012  Everyone had heard about the train accident within 15 minutes of it taking place Sunday afternoon.  For the people in the Queensway community I was meeting with mention was made of an almost identical accident four years earlier almost to the day – February 18, 2008 when 19 cars of a 139 car freight train jumped the tracks.

The city called a press conference for 9:00 pm at City Hall to update the media on the Sunday accident.  The bank of television cameras were lined up with all the wires stretched out and the prima donnas that stand before the camera were making sure they looked the way they are supposed to look.

The Mayor was on hand, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, the head of Emergency Medical Services.  They gave the media the information they had, answered all the questions, handed out contact sheets with all the information any media person could want – and then everyone left and the city hall atrium became a normal place again.

It was an eastbound VIA Rail train that went off the tracks.  There were five passenger cars with what was understood to be a manifest of 75 passengers.  The EMS people said they had moved 32 people within a 90 minute time frame to various hospitals.

What was odd was that there wasn’t one word said about the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital (JBMH) which is where ambulances would have shuttled injured passengers until there was no more capacity.  The JBMH is literally minutes away.  Hamilton hospitals got mentioned.

Photographers and television crews set up in city hall atrium for press conference on train derailment.

The press conference was told there were three people in the locomotive who were killed and that one of the three was a trainee.  We were told that two of the passenger cars flipped onto their sides.

Gary Sage, head of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the people that run the ambulances and take care of people who have been hurt, reported that getting 32 people out of the rail cars and to hospitals was an impressive achievement.

The Fire Chief explained that his people were on hand to get into the rail cars, which meant popping out windows and in some cases cutting into the cars to get to people.

There was some confusion with what was understood to be 25 people who could not be accounted for – they seemed at 9:00 pm to have just wandered off – which is odd for a train coming out of Niagara Falls and heading for Toronto –  these were not local people who would have somewhere to go.

No one was able to say just where they were.  The Fire Chief did say that his people had “secured the perimeter”.  In major accidents like this chaos tends to reign until the really seriously injured are taken care of and if helicopter evacuations are needed space has to be determined for them to land, get in and get out.

The names of the deceased were not released until next of kin had been advised other than to say that two were from the GTA and one outside the area.

It was city Manager Jeff Fielding who called the press conference to order.  He was also the man who directed  the questions from the media and kept things from getting unruly.  He’s a pretty direct guy.

The rail line belongs to Canadian National Railways (CNR) but when an accident of this nature takes place the Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency, sends in teams of investigators and they begin the process of trying to figure out what went wrong.  It could be months before the reason for the derailment is known.

Monday morning commuters will use busses to get from the Aldershot GO station to either Burlington or Appleby Line.  There will be a lot of grousing and grumpy people – but by the end of the day things will be back to near normal.

What we saw was how our emergency people handle complex situations.   They did good.

Meanwhile, the police have a bit of a quandary on their hands.  They now have a copy of the manifest in their hands.  The manifest is the document that tells them how many people paid to get on the train.  It may not include the names of the passengers.  If a passenger went to a ticket counter and paid cash for their ticket there is no record of the person.

In an announcement police has said they “would like to ensure the condition and current location of those passengers. All passengers taken to area hospitals or who received treatment at the scene have been noted and reconciled with the manifest. However the current whereabouts of approximately one dozen passengers is unknown as they left the scene using their own mode of transportation.”

What we know then is that out of a passenger load of about 75 people there are 12 that left the scene of the accident on their own.  You can bet that there are a handful of very smart police intelligence types sitting around a table asking themselves some hard questions.  One or two may have decided to just get out of the area and head for home – but this wasn’t a commuter train – this was a Via train running from Niagara Falls to Toronto.

Something suggests to me that there are 12 people who don’t want to be found and they have hot footed it out of the area.  What the police want to know is: Who are these people and what were they doing on that train

February 28, 2012

Investigators are now confident that outstanding passengers on board the Via train from Sunday’s incident have now all been accounted for.  They do not say if any are in custody.




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1 comment to Something odd about train passenger list – police can’t account for about 12 people – they seemed to have just walked away.

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