‘Thanks to God, we are alive’: driver recounts narrow escape after highway plywood crash


Just moments after watching a piece of plywood soar through the air and smash into her windshield, Jaspreet Sran stopped, stepped out of her car and assessed the damage.

« I started shivering, » said Sran from her Brampton home. « I realized ‘oh my god,’ this thing has happened. »

During the afternoon rush on a busy Toronto-area highway, Sran looked on in shock at the large piece of plywood sticking straight out of her windshield. One of its corners had pierced the glass and struck her in the arm.

The freak collision happened at around 4 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 410 near Queen Street East in Brampton.

A day later, Sran says she’s lucky to have escaped with only a few cuts and bruises.

« Thanks to God, we are alive, » she said. « That’s the most important thing. »

Jaspreet Sran, left, and Sukhpreet Dhillon, suffered minor cuts and bruises in the incident. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

Plywood came off SUV trailer

Sran, who was driving with her mother-in-law and a family friend, remembers watching the plywood fly through the air for several seconds before it eventually landed on her Volkswagen Jetta.

She and her friend were covered in broken glass, and — in the back seat — her mother-in-law’s hand was cut.

Sran called police after stopping the car.

« When the call came in that there was a vehicle blocking a live lane that had a piece of wood that had gone through the windshield, you think the worst, » said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police.

« This could have been so much worse, » he added.

Witnesses to the collision tell police the plywood came flying off a small utility trailer being towed by an SUV on the highway. Some reported the vehicle’s license plate, and officers later made contact with the owner.

Investigators are now working to determine who was driving at the time of the incident. The SUV did not stop at the scene.

No charges have been laid, Schmidt said, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.

Police are asking drivers to ensure any loads they carry are strapped and properly secured. (OPP)

‘If he knows, he has to stop’

Police said it’s not yet clear if the SUV driver knew the wood flew off the trailer at the time of the collision.

Schmidt says its possible the driver was just returning from a quick trip to a lumber yard, and failed to properly secure the load.

In windy conditions, even a small bump on the highway can send a large object flying, he said.

Schmidt is hoping the incident reminds drivers to be extra cautious when transporting potentially dangerous objects.

Sran is waiting to find out how much the driver knew.

« I feel like maybe he doesn’t know that something was flying from his truck, » she said. « If he knows he has to stop, at least for help. »


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‘I didn’t have time to stop’: C-Train driver recounts horror of hitting pedestrian


The fear of striking a pedestrian is one that lurks in the minds of all train drivers — and the worst case came to pass Monday in Calgary after two people died after being hit by trains.

A six-year-old girl who had wandered away from home died after she was struck by a C-Train at the Somerset-Bridlewood station, and hours later, a man was struck and killed at Erlton.

Wanda Heater, who is now retired after driving C-Trains for about 20 years, has lived that nightmare.

‘You can’t prepare yourself’

« We hope it never happens. Nobody wants it to happen. And you can’t prepare yourself for it. It’s impossible, » she said.

In the late 1980s, Heater was behind the controls of a train on 7th Avenue downtown when she saw an inebriated man step out directly onto the tracks.

« I saw him coming, but by the time I see him coming, it’s too late, he’s already off the curb and in front of the train, » she said. 

« I hit him. I didn’t have time to stop. He didn’t die on the scene but he died that evening. »

It’s a daily occurrence. We can’t deny people do walk out in front of the train every day.– Rick  Ratcliff , Local 583 Amalgamated Transit Union president

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583 president Rick Ratcliff said C-Train drivers are well-trained, but it’s impossible to bring a 160-tonne, four-car train to an immediate halt.

« They don’t stop that quickly. There’s only so much you can do, » Ratcliff said.

And, while not every incident ends as tragically as the two deaths on Monday, it’s a frequent problem drivers have to face.

« It’s a daily occurrence. We can’t deny people do walk out in front of the train every day, » he said.

A transit employee stares at glass that was shattered on the front of a C-Train after it hit a man who stepped onto the tracks at the Erlton Station on Monday. He was found dead at the scene. (CBC)

The union has approximately 3,000 members in Calgary. About 2,400 of them drive shuttles, full-length buses and C-Trains.

Ratcliff said support mechanisms are in place once a tragedy happens. Crisis management clinicians that specialize in critical incident response are sent out to support the drivers and staff at the stations involved. And after the fact, employees have access to confidential counselling and coaching services at no cost, 24-7.

Those supports have improved over the years, Ratcliff said.

« I have known at least one person that had a tragedy up at SAIT and got right back onto the train and drove.… I don’t think policy would allow that to happen today. »

A Calgary Transit peace officer stands near the site where a six-year-old girl was struck and killed by a C-Train on Monday. (CBC)

The transit union also recently negotiated an additional $750 per year in counselling benefits with registered psychologists for staff.

After an accident happens, Heater said, the driver will hop out to check on the victim and call rail control to send staff to handle the situation. In the case of the crash she was involved in, a police officer was nearby who rushed forward to provide first aid.

« I can remember everything that happened in vivid detail. But I don’t dwell on it, » said Heater, who said she experienced « a great deal of anxiety » and saw a psychologist for a while after the crash. « I can talk about it now, but it was a long time ago. »

There are 65 level crossings in Calgary — spots where cars, cyclists or pedestrians cross the C-Train’s path.

Between 1985 and last year, 74 people died at C-Train stations. Of those, 66 were pedestrians struck by trains, three were cyclists and five were killed in car-train collisions.

Two-thirds of those deaths are believed to be accidents, and 31 per cent were suicides.

There are proposals to try to make level crossings safer, Ratcliff said, but unfortunately some incidents are simply unavoidable tragedies. In those cases, all that can be done is to provide supports to those involved.

Ratcliff said he believes the driver of the train that hit the six-year-old child on Monday is on leave.

« He’s dealing with a traumatic situation. The situation is absolutely tragic. Our hearts go out to all those people that are impacted, » Ratcliff said.

With files from Jennifer Lee.


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Recounts continue in N.B. ridings with razor-thin margins after election – New Brunswick


Recounts are continuing today in two New Brunswick ridings, more than a week after a provincial election left the two main parties virtually deadlocked.

New tallies are being done in Memramcook-Tantramar, which saw an 11-vote victory for the Green party, and in Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton where the Tories claimed a 93-vote victory.

READ MORE: Recount confirms Liberal win in N.B., riding, but court challenge still possible

A recount done Thursday by a New Brunswick judge confirmed a narrow Liberal win in the Saint John Harbour riding, meaning the results of the Sept. 24 provincial election remain at 22 seats for the Progressive Conservatives, and 21 for the Liberals.

But, a lawyer for the Progressive Conservative candidate has alleged about 40 voters cast their ballots twice and has said he may reinstate an application for the result to be thrown out by early next week.

WATCH: Recounts underway following razor-thin New Brunswick election

The Liberals say they still plan to proceed to a throne speech in just over two weeks, while the Tories continue to call for Premier Brian Gallant to resign immediately and allow Tory Leader Blaine Higgs to form a government.

The Green party and the People’s Alliance party each have three seats.


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