After close to 50 lives were lost only a few months earlier in a rail accident that destroyed large swaths of a tourist and logging town in Quebec, recently Canada was again rocked by a tragic railroad disaster. While the exact cause remains unknown at press time, some of the facts of this gruesome crash are clear. A double-decker OC Transpo bus collided with an oncoming train, leading to six fatalities, including the bus driver, as well as 30 injuries. Photos of the accident’s aftermath show the front was literally ripped off the bus, which broke through a crossing barrier prior to the collision with the train.

Investigators search for answers

While victims’ family members and safety officials desperately seek the cause of this accident, the available evidence is turning up few leads. The crossing warnings were deployed 47 seconds before the crash and the barrier had been lowered approximately 25 seconds earlier. Neither the train nor the bus had needed excessive repairs or out-of-ordinary maintenance either. As a result, investigators are changing gears to determine if human error might have played a role.

Seeing without recognizing

Investigated from any angle, driving through the crash barrier remains a difficult act to understand. One explanation psychologists have offered involves a condition in which people visually see objects but are incapable of recognizing them in a way that permits them to react appropriately. In other words, when drivers see something which they simply do not expect, they may be incapable on a cognitive level of being conscious of an object. This may help explain driving through crossing gates and into an oncoming train.

Driver health

Another issue the crash has brought to the fore is heightened risks of specific diseases in certain professions. The driver in this case had taken medication for diabetes, a condition that is very common in positions such as bus drivers and train conductors, who spend many hours a day in sedentary states without the ability to exercise. Whether or not diabetes could have played any role in this crash remains unknown. 

Regardless of the cause, train accidents are traumatic events with lasting consequences. Adequate legal representation is a critical component of any accident victim’s recovery.