Five deaths in five weeks at rural Manitoba rail crossings

Five people have died after their vehicles collided with trains at rail crossings in Manitoba in just five weeks — now, the RCMP are calling for vigilance on the road.

“It’s imperative that people pay attention,” Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said in a phone interview Sunday.

“You need to stop and physically look — you’ve got to turn your head to see if a train is approaching — some of these trains on the main lines are travelling over 100 kilometres an hour.”

Friday evening, Mounties went to the scene of a crash just north of the Trans-Canada Highway near Road 66 North, about 41 km west of Portage la Prairie, where one person was pronounced dead after they drove their SUV through a rail crossing arm.

Read more: Unidentified motorist dead after collision with train: Manitoba RCMP

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Last week, three men were killed after their van hit a train in west Manitoba east of Strathclair, RCMP said — four people were inside the van when it was travelling north before it was struck by a Canadian Pacific train headed west.

A month ago, another man was killed west of Portage la Prairie after his SUV was struck by a train.

“Compare… the size of a train to the size of a vehicle, it’s a race you’re not going to win,” said Manaigre.

“Trains, thousands of tonnes rolling down the line, they can’t stop quickly. I believe this collision (Friday evening), by the time the conductor was aware a collision occurred, it took five miles for this train to come to a stop.”

The recent rash of deaths comes ahead of a rail safety awareness campaign helmed by Canadian National Railway — Rail Safety Week — that launches Monday.

There’s an average of 2,311 accidents at rail crossings yearly in North America, according to data compiled by CN.

At this point, Manitoba RCMP don’t suspect a pattern in the recent uptick in deaths at rail crossings — but urge caution, particularly for rural motorists who frequently drive through uncontrolled crossings.

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“People are driving down this road every day for years, maybe half their life, no stop signs because there’s never anyone there and that one day there’s something there and you’re just not paying attention — there’s a collision,” Manaigre said. 

“People get accustomed to that routine, but when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle you cannot get complacent, you have to pay attention.”

Train derails in northwestern Ontario near Emo

Train derails in northwestern Ontario near Emo

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