OTTAWA — Hundreds of Via Rail passengers were evacuated from a burning locomotive and forced to trudge about two kilometres through the bush near Ottawa on Sunday, a journey that saw more than a dozen treated for minor injuries.
The engine of the Toronto-to-Ottawa train caught fire near Richmond, Ont., at about 8 p.m. ET., and more than 300 passengers had to walk along the tracks to the nearest road to board buses to finish their journey.
At least 13 required treatment for bug bites, allergic reactions and some minor bumps and bruises.
Carleton University journalism student Lauren Vogel was returning from Toronto when the lights in her car suddenly went out and the air conditioning stopped working.
A Via employee came through the car and began shouting at everyone to get to the back of the train, said Vogel.
As smoke filled the car and the doors wouldn’t open, Vogel said people began to panic.
“I just thought, I’ve just got to keep cool and get off this train,” she said.
Eventually the car doors were opened, said Vogel, who twisted her ankle when she jumped to the ground.
The whole ordeal probably took about 10 minutes, but it felt more like an hour, she said.
Ottawa police Const. Alain Boucher said it “didn’t appear to be a very big incident, although there were many people.”
He added the “operation went well.”
The two engineers were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and taken to hospital to be assessed, said Jean-Pierre Trottier of the Ottawa Paramedic Service.
Some of the passengers were treated for anxiety, but most were just “slightly annoyed” by the whole experience, Trottier added.
The train had left Toronto at 3:35 p.m. ET and was scheduled to arrive in Ottawa just after 8 p.m. ET.