Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A first-hand account of a "pedestrian incident" - Re: Man hit by GO train in Newmarket. Barrie passenger describes what many of us hope to never experience

In response to the yesterday's post, see "A person dying isn't an inconvenience"

From Withheld
December 18 2012
9:24 AM

I feel concerned about the man hit, and sort of surprised at myself. I know what to do in an airplane if there is a problem. I have no idea what to do on a GO train, which I ride at minimum four trips a week, and a GO train carries far more people than an airplane does. And after yesterday, I don't think the GO train staff really know what to do either.

I read your article on your website. One thing I likely didn't communicate clearly, the message about the no fare refund was via email or text - not announced on the intercom - another passenger received it and - well people were passing around phones, and seeing that was just revolting, in all honesty. I didn't realize it was in response to an individual who asked?

I don't subscribe to the service updates, I get on in Barrie, second stop on the line, and then going home get on at Union the starting point, delays just don't really impact me. In the last year I've never encountered a delay more than say 10 minutes. The message about the no refunds came electronically after the service update message that was emailed about a fatality, when we watched the poor man clearly still alive. That was unfortunately announced.

Another clarification I want to make - I don't know if he was elderly or not elderly. What struck me the most was his legs, all twisted up, he was wearing jeans with rolled up cuffs. And the blood on his hand. A lot of it seems rather morbid, thinking of the conversations when we were stuck across the road watching the man. It looked like pieces of bread strewn all around and I thought no, what the heck? Because everyone's first assumption was a suicide, so you tend to go with that thought. And so it was like what is that? People were all, it's bread. Then someone else noticed the water bottles. Then the conversation was, who on earth goes to the grocery store then tries to kill themselves by train?

Someone else mentioned maybe he fell on the tracks and couldn't get up in time. Maybe a shoelace got caught. Maybe he dropped something he was carrying and thought he had time to pick it up. Maybe he was visually impaired, no one remembers hearing a train whistle or the bells. Did the gate fail? Someone said, "we should send flowers".

The first customer service lady did announce that we could go to the courtesy coach to make a phone call if need be. I had no bars. I went up, there was a large line. I mentioned to her he was still alive, why were they saying he was dead? I went back to my car, as I had left my laptop bag there. I remember being grateful no one stole it, as it had a database I'd been working on for months on it, and I reminded myself to back it up on a thumb drive. On my way back to my car, I asked a lady texting if she could send a text to my office.

When I got back, the lady who had been taking pictures - first from the top of the car, then from the lower level - and it wasn't crass, she was just stunned that no one was helping him while they were announcing a fatality and he was so clearly not dead - she was upset. And I thought, we must have our timeline wrong, what is the timestamp on the pictures? 8:04, on to 8:09, on to 8:13 - she didn't know how to check the time stamps. So we went to the properties for each picture and it was wow, oh my goodness. And that was the first picture we saw someone other than the man in the black car, (though the 8:09 picture shows a blonde lady from a car and another man from another vehicle, and they weren't there in the 8:13 picture) and it was just the leg, she indicated it was someone from GO. That's a long time, considering the goal for firefighters is 10 under 10 - 10 firefighters on the scene within 10 minutes.

So I just hope he turns out as well as one can when hit by a train. I truly do. I don't know what happened that caused him to be on the tracks when he was. I do know that GO decided he was dead from the start. And the main concern was, NO, he's ALIVE! And if they actually not made that assumption, maybe the outcome would have been better.

In terms of how GO and the first lady on the intercom handled things - appalling in my mind. The replacement one, I've seen her on trains that depart earlier from Barrie, she was very efficient.

The coroner announcement, the clean up crew, I mean they assumed he was dead. Then they indicated they were evacuating the train. Calls were made by different people, many from Newmarket, to have someone come pick them up. We were told to know our call number and we would be exiting car by car by the last train, and when the buses arrived they would begin. The buses were lined up.

Then they announced that we would be reversing the train so the disabled coach would be at the street, and would be exiting from that car for the evacuation.

THEN they announced we would be proceeding onward with all station stops, after testing the brakes. Aurora wasn't that far away. They did have buses waiting for us, and they took us back to Barrie. I appreciated that. They had other buses for other destinations. The train proceeded.

I don't think they knew what to do. I didn't know what to do. I am not faulting them for that, but frankly when you have that many people on a train, you should have a plan. And execute it, without mentioning Coroner, clean up crew, crime scene, and I get the brake check, but knowing they have to test the brakes to see if they were damaged by the accident, and are testing them with me on the train - really, just get me off. It was such an unpleasant experience.

Add in passengers who were just mad they were going to be late, I mean, what is the world coming to when people are more concerned about their very big important schedule over a human life? It's sad.

And if he was trying to kill himself? Maybe knowing a bunch of people cared enough to take action to help until the ambulance came would be what it takes to turn it around for that man. Knowing people were more concerned about their refund or their meeting, I don't see that helping.

- Name withheld by request


AllanVS said...

Well said. I don't know what I would have done... maybe used the emergency exit to give help or something. I would not demand or expect a refund, that is for sure.

Charlie W said...

I was on a train that hit a vehicle near Guildwood station
Our CSA was a GO veteran
Not once did he call the wait an inconvenience
If I recall, after we all felt the impact, he got on the mic and said the crew was investigating an incident
Then he came back on and said the train was involved in a collision where it's believed a vehicle had been struck and that emergency personnel were on scene
He did say he was sorry we were being subjected to an unfortunate event and that we would be a while as there's a process GO has to follow when the authorities are called in.
He kept thanking us for our patience. He invited anyone who wanted to talk to come to his coach and offered his cellphone for those who needed to reach family members.
Yes, we were inconvenienced but it was something that couldn't be prevented as really, there's only an expectation people aren't going to drive around the barriers of a railroad crossing, or, take one's life.
I hope the man lives. If he was taking a chance with fate, I hope others learn from his mistake.

Anonymous said...

" waiting at the boom " What?

C.J. Smith said...

Sorry, let me correct it to the Canadian term. I mean the barrier-arm.
My uncle always called them boom gates.

Anonymous said...

Tell that to the people who lost their jobs over this. I was on this train on my way to a job interview. Lucky for me, the HR person was understanding and saw me later in the afternoon but what about those who don't get a sympathetic nod?
The gates, lights and bells are there for a reason. I don't feel sorry for anyone who disobeys the law. You reap what you sow. And don't make it about Christmas. Stupid is as stupid does 365 days a year.

Judy said...

It's hard to feel sympathetic after being on a train since 8:05 and not getting into work until well after noon. Maybe if this was an accident, like he was pushed but if he tried to outrun the train...come on....delaying thousands of people and traumatizing people to save a few seconds.....of course people get pissed. Like you wouldn't be?! I'm sorry he's hurt but no one just gets hit by a train.

C.J. Smith said...

I'm not implying no one was in the wrong here.
Let the police do their job before pointing fingers.
The situation calls for a better communications plan and how to deal with the circumstances as they unfold without focusing on the monetary loss to passengers. It's more than just refunding money.
It's dealing with the situation itself.
No one likes having trauma forced upon them but the deal is people will take risks. As people who ride commuter trains we have to know we could be witness to some serious incidents.
Ask yourself how you plan to deal. Is it really about money? Or a job?

Witness. said...

I was on that train this morning and in the car beside the man on the road and I was one of the people who asked to go out to help> By that time there was a couple of guys beside the man - an engineer was one I was told. I understand why people aren't let out also - for their safety. No-one grumbled in our car or asked for money AND there never was an announcement regarding a refund. The CSA was genuinely upset and did her best to keep people informed. I was late for work and missed a meeting. I'm not worried - there'll be another.

Anonymous said...

witnesses will always recall different things. i was told in an email, without asking, that i wouldn't qualify for a refund
the csa was upset and not everyone can be cool under pressure
she did what she could under the circumstances
a medical doctor or nurse should be allowed to leave
random people panic and if let loose from the coaches could make the situation worse, that's why you have to stay on the train people

C.J. Smith said...

The good thing about telling these first-hand stories is it helps other commuters understand why certain measures are taken so that when faced with a similar circumstance, they aren't left feeling bewildered and helpless.

Ashley said...

Horrifying. I hope that poor man is okay. Just the description of the situation brought tears to my eyes.

To Anonymous & Judy:
How do you know he broke the law, or deliberately tried to "beat" the train. How do you know he wasn't hearing or vision impaired and didn't hear the bells/see the lights for the gates until they started closing? Maybe he panicked and tried to get around them to safety, but wasn't quick enough. Perhaps he was crossing and tried to turn around, and had a shoe or a piece of clothing get caught on the tracks, and couldn't get back to safety in time. There are many accidental scenarios that could have happened here. As awful as it is, yes, sometimes people do "just" get hit by a train.
The insensitivity of your comments astounds me.

How would you feel if this was your father, or grandfather, and people were making angry comments about how pissed off they were at him for ruining their day or inconveniencing them? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't feel any sympathy towards them.

Have a little sympathy and compassion. Christmastime or not.

Anonymous said...

For me, I would like to know the facts before making a conclusion. But I will make 2 guesses here
1) If this man suffered a medical condition (i.e temporarily blinded, hearing aid defective etc...) then ok, I may show some sympathy.


2) If this man, willfully disobeyed the crossing signals,gates and knowingly tried to outrun the train, then sympathies here.

Jason Carman said...

I was a passenger on this train, and the CSA did the very best she could as the situation unfolded and details started to become clear. She did an exceptional job at letting the passenegers know exactly what was going on as she got details, and at any given point the entire train knew precisely as much about the situation as she did. That she was quite visably shaken and still able to deal with things as well as she did is commendable.

C.J. Smith said...

Thanks Jason for letting us know your take on the situation.

Anonymous said...

@4:41 - If anybody actually lost their jobs over this, then they are better off. Who would want to work for an employer that fires you (or won't reschedule and interview) for something that is 100% beyond your control.

You are seriously what is wrong with society dude. A guy is clinging to his life and all you can think about is yourself! Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I was on the train this morning and it was an awful feeling. The young csa was obviously shaken up ( who wouldn't be) but she handled herself very well and did her best to keep us informed! No one on my coach was complaining about being late or a refund, people were concerned and anxious for updates. This being my first experience ( and hopefully last) I have nothing to compare it too. Police, ambulance and go train personnel did what they had to do but it was very frusturating when they kept changing their minds about if the train would proceed or be evacuated? In the end the train continued to union, we were stopped for over 3 hours and yes everyone was late . Everyone should be concerned for this person clinging to life regardless if it was an accident or otherwise, I know I am. Very very sad!

Anonymous said...

I was on this train and I couldn't believe how disorganized GO Transit was. This has happened many times before, how is there not a plan in place? I suffer from anxiety, and being literally stranded on a stopped train in the same place for 3 hours is ridiculous. I fully understand the police and coroner have to investigate, but let me off the train. Don't tell me we are being evacuated at 8:50 and at 10:30 I'm still waiting to be evacuated. I have to say I didn't get on the train home easily after that experience. And to all those York students who missed their exams as a result of this, I really hope your professors understood the situation.
Its not about the refund for me, its about the sheer lack of consideration for the passengers. I also noticed there were fewer passengers on my car this morning. If I owned a car, I would think twice about getting on that GO train today.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to let everyone know that this man is expected to survive and GOD will reward those who kept him in their prayers.

Subliminal said...

That is good to hear.
Whether someone makes a bad decision or is just unfortunate to be severely or fatally injured we should all count our blessings at that time and be compassionate to our fellow man and woman.
Being on a train with 1500 other people will subject us to more situations like this than the average solo rider in a car will ever experience in their lifetime.
A train is not as easy to stop as a driver can in a car nor can it 'swerve' and I think it takes it toll on a train crew who probably experience a higher job turn around as a result of it happening
on the job so much more than the average person who drives their own car.
Everyone on a train that experiences this type of situation is affected differently and handles it differently. Some passengers experience fear, anger, indifference. Some are just listen to their ipod and have no care or fear of a bad boss who might not care about the reasons why they are late for work.
Hopefully , as commuters, we all come together and help each other in trying situations like these and make the best of it.

CJ, you've done a great job in moderating this emotional topic.

Anonymous said...

I honestly think that much of the insensitivity can be blamed to the CSAs lack of experience and training. I've been on the train several times having hit a person as well as hitting a car and the CSAs have never said something like that over the intercom; rather, quite the opposite. The most information I've ever been told whilst on the train is that we've struck a car/pedestrian and that they apologized for the situation but would report back with any details as they come in. Not once were words like "Dead" and "coroner" used. I think it's most unfortunate and also sad that none of the passengers in direct view of this man were moved to other coaches so as to minimize the shock and having to possibly look at a man that may or may not be clinging to life.

I live in Newmarket, the poor man must have been at the Metro or something by Mulock and Yonge..

Good grief, it's a miracle that the man is alive.

Anonymous said...

how about the lives of the conductor and engineer on board!!!! He was a homeless dude trying to commit suicide!!

Anonymous said...

I've been in many a GO train delay over the years for many a cause. I can say without a shred of a doubt, they almost never have a plan.

Julie Cochrane said...

I was on the Train that hit the man. We could see him lying on the road waiting for emergency crews. He was carrying groceries, bread, bottled water and he had a backpack full of books. Not something you would think someone would take to a suicide attempt. Go Transit told us by text and over an announcement that he had died - yet we could see him moving and breathing from the train. I also went to the special needs car and told the Go Transit worker that he was not dead that he was moving. She told me they only say what the police tell them to say. I went back to my car where we could see the man lying there. It took over 10 minutes before someone from Bombardier went to him. (I have it time stamped on my phone) The ambulance took even longer and was on the opposite side of the train and could not reach him. I would like to know his condition. I think an investigation should be launched - the amount of time that he lay there is unconscionable.