Weather a factor in fatal train-vehicle crash

A report that examined a vehicle-train crash that killed a father and his two daughters says snowy, slippery conditions were factors.

EDMONTON — A report that examined a vehicle-train crash that killed a father and his two daughters says snowy, slippery conditions were factors.

John Baxter was driving his two daughters to school on May 4, 2010 when his pickup truck was hit by a westbound Via Rail train at a level crossing at Winterburn Road and 111th Avenue during near blizzard conditions.

The Transportation Safety Board says the flashing lights and crossing arms were working properly the morning of the accident.

However, the board says heavy, wet snow had accumulated on the crossing warning signals, as well as on the gate, its lights and reflectors.

The board says Baxter likely didn’t see the signal lights and that the crossing gate was down until his vehicle was too close to stop due to road conditions.

It says the driver was applying the truck’s brakes and the engine was at idle speed a second before the collision when he may have tried to steer into the northbound lane to clear the crossing, but it was too late.

The board also says the warning times at the crossing were inconsistent, which may have led to drivers being “desensitized” to the signals.

Two weeks after the crash, Canadian National Railway replaced the crossing protection system with a constant warning system with LED lights. In the two weeks after, there were no warning times greater than one minute.

The board noted that crossing did not require trains to blow their whistles; the city of Edmonton passed an anti-whistling bylaw for the crossing and applied to Transport Canada to stop the whistling, which was granted in 1989.