In the end, the train wins

The kid's name was Nick Zselaniak. He was a classmate of mine at West Park Secondary School and he died trying to out run a train in my hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario.
The man's name was Steve. He was my neighbor growing up. His 18-wheeler stalled on the train tracks and he miraculously survived, though he spent a year in the hospital. I babysat his kids and held his wife's hand through the terrible ordeal.
And then there was Donnie, the son of a good friend. He couldn't live with himself anymore and he walked in front of a train at the very place six people died yesterday in Ottawa in a horrific bus-train accident.
I told Scott yesterday, if you live long enough you'll know somebody who died in an argument with a train.
With the exception of the Lac Megantic tragedy, death by train is rarely the fault of the train. In the majority of cases, the incidents are caused by someone driving a vehicle or walking on the tracks.
In the end, it really doesn't matter who's at fault or why.
In the end the train wins.
I thought about this yesterday as I watched eight hours straight of news television, tearing up as I listened to the stories of the people who got up that morning, brushed their teeth, waved goodbye to their moms, their wives or their kids and put their trust in another human being to get them to school or to work on time.
As long as there are trains running through our community along level crossings, there will be incidents, though as our friends at the Canada Safety Council remind us, there are no accidents.
These trains are loaded weapons just waiting for someone else to pull the trigger. I watched the Twitter feed of Via Rail yesterday as it chirpily announced that there was an accident in Ottawa but no one on the train was harmed. Of course they weren't. The people on the train were shielded in steel and were travelling at a snail's pace, by rail standards. They were tucking into cheese omelettes on Via One or purchasing stale sandwiches while riding on a juggernaut that was about to take out members of dozens of families.
I'm sure in days to come, we will see video footage from the club car uploaded on Youtube.
Watch as this city bus crashes into the side of us.
You won't believe it.
And we will hear politicians blorg about new regulations for level crossings, but the fact is, you can't regulate human error and judgment. People die in planes, trains and automobiles every day. Sadly, train accidents are becoming more horrific and prevalent.
You could put a bridge over every train track, it would be expensive, but you could do it.
You could also move the tracks out of heavily urban areas, but some kid would still walk on to the track somewhere. Some other kid would try to out race a train. And some trucker in a hurry would still stall on the tracks somewhere.
It happens.
My fear is that the people of my community decide to turn their anger on the poor bus driver, a man of integrity and good will by all accounts.
 I am confident that he just did what people do. He made a human error.
So let's put our anger aside and mourn our neighbors, comfort his widow and try to take some lesson from this awful accident.
Maybe tell bus drivers to stop at all crossings. That would be one thing positive to come out of all of this.
But recognize that as long as there are trains and there are people, there are bound to be tragedies.


  1. Accidents are the worst thing that can happen to anybody. There is no guarantee that if the person goes out from the home, he may return back safely.

    Arnold Brame
    Health And Safety Consultant Peterborough


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