Monday, September 12, 2011

1975 GO Train and TTC bus crash left 8 dead

I would like to thank the mass following of railheads for this story.

On December 12th, 1975, a GO Transit Train slammed into a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus containing 50 passengers, including the driver, after the bus stalled at a level crossing at St. Clair Avenue and Kennedy Road in Scarborough.

The crash happened at 4:45 pm. The TTC bus' driver, 54 year old Donald Sine, was hailed a hero for his valiant efforts in attempting to get all of his passengers off the bus as an oncoming Lakeshore eastbound Express GO train barreled towards them. The crash happened at a crossing where politicians and local residents had been fighting for it to be converted to an underpass.

According to a Toronto Star article, the bus had been experiencing mechanical difficulties as the driver approached the crossing. Witnesses said he stopped at the crossing as mandated and then drove through and over the tracks only to stop again as the driver thought two young passengers were on the back steps, trying to force the back doors open. As the driver fiddled with the bus' controls, the railroad crossing arms came down. Someone on the bus screamed a train was coming. The rear doors failed to open and Sine began herding passengers out the front door of the bus.

Sine frantically tried to signal for the train to stop and the conductor deployed the emergency brake but the train, originally traveling at 70 mph (112 kph) was only able to reduce its speed to 50 mph (80 kph) when it slammed into the bus.

When the six-coach long GO train hit the bus, it spun like a top and its undercarriage and front wheels were ripped from it. Eight people were killed and 21 more were injured. None of the 15 passengers on the GO train or the three-man crew were injured.

The names of the victims were:

Frank Lederer, 42
Edelle Petersen, 48
Leo McCaie, 29
Joan Mich, 40
Renato Diano, 30
Wendy Gamey, 20
William Stride, 66
Margaret Andrejek, 19

I have a PDF of the news coverage of this crash as sent to me by a reader/railhead. Due to copyright reasons, I don't believe I can share it online or link it.

If you'd like to read the full story, please email me (

Note. Wikipedia reports this crash as happening on December 8th, 1975 and claims 9 people were killed. The date is wrong but I am working to clarify how many people were tragically killed as others may have died later in hospital.

To date, there has not been a fatal derailment involving passengers on a GO Transit train. We should all be grateful.


Allison said...

I think of lot of us, when you look at places like India, take rail safety for granted. I personally don't understand why there still are level crossings along the GO lines but our government feels money is best spent elsewhere.

I do wonder what would happen in a derailment when the trains are full. I shudder to think of the fatalities.

Anonymous said...

I thought your site was meant to be funny. Epic fail.

C.J. Smith said...

Hey anonymous,

Asshole? Total win.

FRED said...

Tragic, especially before Christmas.
Can't imagine what was going through the crew's minds and if any of the three are still working.

Anonymous said...

why was the train going that fast with the station right there..
probably fake

Ted the Railhead said...

The trains don't reduce speeds when they are Express and this was an Express train at the time so it would have gone past Danforth, Eglinton and Scarborough at full speed.
Don't be an insensitive idiot. People died.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first anonymous. Who cares? I'm here for the funny. The departure door donkey shit was awesome. Too serious now. Must stop.

C.J. Smith said...

I don't recall forcing anyone to read this post.

lswgirl13 said...

And now to be heartless, the LSW is having big delays today because of a "pedestrian fatality". PEOPLE, do not jump in front of trains!!! I want to get home on time!

Anonymous said...

way to jump to conclusions! last time people did that everyone had their foot in their mouths when it came to be known that a CN employee was killed doing his job. it's not always suicides.

lswgirl13 said...

I got a toonie that says it is. And FYI, now it's affecting the LSE as well.

Anonymous said...

The name of the engineer on that fateful night was Pat Gartland. He was never the same after this.

lswgirl13 said...

I guess that'd be expected. Nothing he could do but that wouldn't matter to him.

Dan-1 said...

Allison, Metrolink had had a very fatal head-on with a freight train, pushing the passenger locomotive right inside the trailing bilevel car. They use equipment very similar to GO.

That said, there are safety measures on railroads to prevent this kind of thing from happening. The next time you're stopped at a signal or waiting for the crew to contact a foreman, safety procedures are being followed.

Jen said...

Wow... That Toronto Star article certainly brought a new crop of completely inconsiderate readers/ commentators to this site. Well, most of them anyways.

For those complaining about the funny (or lack thereof): Not every post since this blog's conception has been funny. I know, I have read and re-read all the entries. No one forced you to read this site at all. And more importantly, no one forced you to read this entry. If they did, I want to see the proof. You know, the bruise from the pistol whipping, that sort of thing.

Take it for what it is. People died because someone/something screwed up. It can happen anytime, anywhere. It happened a month or so ago with the CN employee, it happened last night.

NoriMori said...

If Wikipedia's statistic is wrong and you have a reliable source that says so, why didn't you edit the article? It would have taken you about 10 seconds.

NoriMori said...

And in fact, another source I read also said it was 9 people, and another said 10. Yet another source says it was in fact December 8th. One source says the driver stopped the bus voluntarily, another says it stalled. I don't think any news sources are agreeing fully on what the details are. What makes you sure yours is the right one?

C.J. Smith said...

I have a PDF of the actual Toronto Star article. I can't say for sure it's 100% correct but I would think the Toronto Star could be considered reliable.

The article is copyrighted and I can't share it online but it can be purchased by anyone for less than $4 from Toronto Star's Pages of the Past service. So, the facts I've stated are correct based on the article provided to me and based on the Toronto Star's reporting at the time.

I can't edit the Wiki entry because I can't link to anything online. That's how Wiki works. I can't just edit it and then attribute it to "because Cindy Smith said so".

However, I did say, RIGHT IN THE POST, that anyone interested in reading the PDF of the story provided simply had to send me an email and Id be more than happy to send it.
I just can't distribute it online as I did not pay to licence the article.

There was no need to be so patronizing especially when I offered to *share* the information.

I fully explained why I didn't share the info online.

My email is available. Please read more carefully.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

In fact anyone with a Toronto Public Library card can go to the TPL website and look up the front page of the Globe or the Star for December 13 1975 and read for themselves.

(Or if you are library-card-less, here's the Windsor Star's story, as available through google:,5200092 )

I have seen other pseudo-official sources that disagree on the date, but note that these sources were after the fact. The Star and Globe were reporting on what had happened the previous day. They would not have gotten it wrong!

Anonymous said...

I remember this. I was 10 at the time and my mother got a call that her cousin was on the bus. The bus stalled and the driver was trying to get it going. She asked to be let off because she didn't want to be sitting on the tracks. She immediately started to tell people to get off the bus, and the driver also told people to get off the bus. She was telling people to move away from the back of the bus too. Many of them were't far from the bus and she knew that they would get hurt. I seem to recall that people were hurt from being hit by the bus once it was hit.

I haven't read any of the articles but this is all from my memory. I seem to recall something about her taking a young boy under and moving him to safely also.

Meike said...

Fake? My aunt DIED in this tragedy! Don't be so nieve.

Anonymous said...

My father was one of people that died that day. His name was Leo McCaie. (his last name was misspelled)

C.J. Smith said...

I'm very sorry for the loss you've endured. I have corrected the spelling of the last name for your father.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother died in this accident, her name was joan mich, my mother was 16 at the time, she got off the bus but when the trian hit it the bus still killed her, have some respect for all the victims, it could of been your mother

Anonymous said...

I lost a friend from high school in this accident - she was the youngest victim, we had just graduated from high school 6 months earlier and I will never forget the effect her death had on all of her friends, it seemed unreal. I'm pretty sure the reporting in the Star is accurate. At least the overpass was finally constructed but look what it took to get politicians to get their act together --- seems like nothing has changed when it comes to politics. It's been almost 40 years and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I still take this route home everyday.

Ian Roberts said...

Thank you for the info on this story. I live not very far from where this accident occurred. I have heard of it, even though it happened before I was born, and I have ridden that bus route along St. Clair many times without knowing the full history of that underpass, which of course has always been there as long as I have been alive.

Anonymous said...

I remember this day. I was a high school student at Midland Ave. C.I.just down the street. It did indeed happen. Don't remember the date but it was a Saturday. Back then the closest station was Union. This crash is the reason it became mandatory for buses to stop at railway crossings. It was a horrible day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this tragic moment in history.

I remember this happening and also lived close by.
So yes, I too can confirm that this really did happen, that the underpass is there today because of this tragic accident that took many lives and yes it is TTC protocol to stop and open doors at a level railway crossing today. I also believe that school buses do the same.

My aunt was supposed to be on that bus, it was the Scarborough #86. She missed that bus due to a full platform at Warden Stn. ( Kennedy Stn. didnt exist in '75)

Due to the recent unfortunate and fatal accident in Ottawa, this has reminded me that all human life is valuable and that accidents do happen and they clearly are of all different magnitudes.

My condolences to the familys and friends that have and currently are grieving their great loss.

Unknown said...

If you actually read the article and not just the numbers you'd have saw that it was an express train. As in it wasn't meant to stop there and was supposed to be going that fast. So do your research before you start offending people.

Anonymous said...

FYI to the person who said it was fake because it was right beside the GO was an express train so it was not meant to stop at the station. Thats why it was moving so fast.

Anonymous said...

I was also a high school freind of Margaret's. The accident was a year and a half after we graduated. I too remember the devastating effect her death had on her friends and family but her family carried themselves with such grace during the funeral...such a loss.

Unknown said...

My name is Susan Suarez nee Smardenkas and I was a friend of your Mom Dorothy. I remember her telling me the story. If you could tell your Mom that I never stopped thinking about her all these years and I miss her so much. I remember her beautiful daughters Joanne and Michelle. If she wants to reach out to me tell her she can. Susan

Anonymous said...

Hi yes it was indeed such a tragedy. I don’t think this happened in a Saturday as I was at work (don’t work Saturdays) at the Toronto Dominion Bank at Kingston Road and St. Clair at that time as one of our other employees was desperately trying to contact her daughter who she thought may be in that bus! Thankfully she was in a bus a few behind it. I looked it up and it was a Tuesday, December 2nd, 1975

CJ Smith said...

Correct. It was not a weekend. It was a Friday. Wikipedia still has the wrong date.

Susan Suarez (Smardenkas) said...

To anonymous. I am writing again to you, your Grandmother Joan Mich was killed on that bus. I am a friend of your Mother Dorothy. I'm not sure if this is Joanne or Michelle who wrote the message on here but I didn't realize that I hadn't left my contact info for you to pass on to your Mom Dorothy. I have added my email. My name again is Susan Suarez (nee Smardenkas) Your Mom & I attended Hairdressing School together at Ivan R. Sales on Danforth Avenue. Sure wish you could somehow read this & let your Mother know that I miss her a lot & after she sold the house on Leslie Avenue I lost contact with her. I don't know if she is still married to Gene (sorry about the spelling, it's been a very long time) RIP Joan Mich