Transportation Safety Board completes investigation into fatal train collision with snowplow

A report into a fatal collision involving a train and a snowplow is placing the blame on a lack of oversight on safety training from the City of London and a pair of contractors.

On Wednesday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) revealed the findings of its investigation into the death of Malcolm Trudell, 26, a snowplow operator who was fatally struck by an eastbound CN Rail freight on Jan. 9, 2018.

Trudell was struck, the report said, after his snowplow travelled onto the Colborne Street railway crossing, south of York Street. He was in the area clearing snow from nearby sidewalks.

An annotated image depicting the snowplow's position before and after railway crossing warning devices were activated. The image also provides insight into what would have been the view of the victim.

An annotated image depicting the snowplow's position before and after railway crossing warning devices were activated. The image also provides insight into what would have been the view of the victim.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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Despite a number of warning devices that were activated at the crossing, including lights, bells and descending gates, investigators say Trudell would have likely been unaware of the oncoming train.

The report said the snowplow’s position, reduced visibility from inside the snowplow and noise produced by the vehicle would have also hindered Trudell’s awareness.

Lead investigator Ken Miller added that fatigue would have played a role, noting that Trudell had been awake for more than 22 hours that day and had been about 11 hours into his shift.

“It affected his ability to scan the environment,” Miller said.

“He didn’t look around to ensure that there were no trains coming.”

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Miller added that the operators of the train did everything they could to prevent the crash. The report stated the train’s horn had been blowing continuously for nearly 20 seconds and that emergency brakes had been applied before the train reached the crossing.

“There were no regulatory infractions and acted properly as expected.”

The investigation also found a cellphone with earphones attached was in Trudell’s shirt pocket at the time of the crash, with one earphone plugged into his ear. However, investigators say no music was playing at the time.

Miller noted that “relatively high” levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were present in Trudell’s system, however investigators were unable to determine when he would have consumed the THC and what effect it had on his ability to operate the snowplow.

Trudell was carrying a G1 licence during the crash. While the province does not require a full G Class licence in order to operate a snowplow, the City of London does.

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Trudell, who attended H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, was an employee of a company contracted by the city to help clear snow.

They say no phone calls or text messages had been received or transmitted in the time leading up to the crash.

The report noted that since his death, the City of London has conducted a review into its safe operating practices at railway crossings.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour confirmed that the city is facing a number of charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Charges have also been laid against Jackson Pools Inc. and an individual currently operating business as Wee Bee Contracting.

Jackson Pools Inc. had been contracted by the city for snow clearing services and Wee Bee was then subcontracted by Jackson Pools Inc.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is to improve transportation safety and is not intended to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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