A collision between a Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) freight train and a delivery van at a public crossing east of Mountain last week has many residents of North Dundas questioning how and why the accident happened. The collision occurred just after 3 pm on January 16 at the Crowder Road level crossing between Winchester and Mountain.
The 60-year-old male driver of the courier van – who is from Augusta Township – was taken to hospital with life threatening injuries. His current condition was unknown at the time of writing. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he was airlifted from Winchester District Memorial Hospital to a larger hospital in Ottawa shortly after being admitted. An Ornge helicopter was observed arriving at the WDMH landing pad just before 4:30 pm on January 16, and departing shortly thereafter.
The wording of some news reports regarding the incident suggests that the delivery driver struck the side of the train while it was already moving through the level crossing. In CPKC’s statement to the Times, the wording suggests otherwise: “A CPKC train struck a motor vehicle on Crowder Road,” said the CPKC spokesperson. “The train cleared the area later in the afternoon.” The railway declined to provide any other details of the incident while the investigation proceeds.
Constable Serge Duguay of the OPP confirmed that the CPKC’s own police division is investigating in conjunction with OPP investigators. Similar to the CPKC Railway, Constable Duguay was not able to divulge any other details of what happened. The North Dundas Fire Service had firefighters from stations 2 and 3 on site, and both Crowder Road and Development Road were closed for much of the day following the incident. Only local traffic was allowed, and both level crossings were impassable. The Township announced on January 17 that the roads were open once again.
The Crowder Road level crossing is one of two crossings in North Dundas that are unprotected by active warning systems such as lights, bells, and gates. Instead, the crossing has warning signage to alert drivers that the crossing is low visibility, suggesting an approach speed of 30. The crossing itself has a crossbuck and a stop sign – drivers are responsible for checking that no train is coming. Crowder Road is a through road, but is not heavily used except by locals. It is often left poorly treated for long stretches of time during the winter months. Last week, it was observed to be very icy.
The Transportation Safety Board designates crossings such as these as having “passive” protection in its database of the nearly 25,000 level crossings in Canada. The Crowder Road crossing ranks as number 5,947 in terms of danger on this list, with approximately 8 trains and 200 motor vehicles passing per day. In comparison, the St. Lawrence St. crossing in Winchester is ranked as more dangerous (number 828) despite having active protection, likely because of the estimated 2,870 cars that pass by daily. Neither crossing had any report of accidents, fatalities or injuries as of the 2023 TSB update.
Social media speculation has been heavy regarding the incident. Such details which cannot be confirmed by reports, evidence and facts should be taken with a grain of salt and will not be reported here.
As usual, the OPP is asking that anyone having information on this incident please call the SD&G OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Seaway Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). You can also submit a tip online at seawayvalleycrimestoppers.ca.