Fatality on East Beach tracks

RCMP and the B.C. Coroner's Service are investigating after a pedestrian was killed on East Beach tracks early Saturday.

RCMP and BC Coroners Service are investigating following the early-morning death of a man who was struck by a freight train in East Beach Saturday.

Police, firefighters and paramedics responded to the scene, near the 16000-block of Beach Road, around 3 a.m. May 16.

Police say the victim – a man in his early 30s – was found on the Surrey side of East Beach, which is Semiahmoo First Nation land, and that they were alerted to the incident by BNSF officials at 2:40 a.m.

It’s unclear why the victim was on the tracks.

BNSF public affairs director Gus Melonas said the man was seen on the tracks by the crew of the freight train that struck him, but did not react to repeated warning blasts from the train’s horn.

“He was not responding,” Melonas said. “The crew went into emergency-braking application in an attempt to stop, but the individual was struck, and the result was a fatality.”

Melonas said the three-locomotive, 112-car train, which was hauling general freight from New Westminster to Seattle, was delayed three hours by the incident.

“We are investigating further,” he said, noting that the single-track stretch of line, about half a mile south of the end of White Rock’s promenade, is in an area that has numerous no-trespassing and danger-warning signs.

The death is the third fatality on the waterfront railway in the past eight years, and among about a dozen reported in the past century.

In July 2013, a woman died after she was struck by a westbound passenger train as she jogged across the tracks in the 15600-block of Marine Drive. Prior to that, a senior died in December 2007, after he was hit in the 14700-block of Marine Drive. The latter was deemed not accidental.

More recently, in February 2014, a senior with dementia was injured on West Beach tracks when he wandered away from a nearby care home and into the path of a freight train.

The coroner’s report on the July 2013 incident ruled Anita Lewis’ death was an accident; that the 42-year-old likely didn’t hear the train due to the fact she was wearing headphones and that the brim of her baseball cap may have prevented her from seeing the train.

A Transport Canada review of Lewis’ death determined that the operation of the train involved and signage at the crossing were in compliance with the Railway Safety Act and associated rules.

The federal agency ordered a joint review of overnight whistling rules and other safeguards along the waterfront. That review has led to additional signage; fencing along the south and west sides of Bayview Park in West Beach; a six-foot-high, wrought-iron-style fence along 160 feet of property east of the pedestrian crossing at Finlay Street; and chainlink mesh along the length of the promenade hand railing.

In addition, two pedestrian railway crossings are under construction on West Beach; one west of the Oxford Street comfort station and the other adjacent to Anderson Street.

SFN councillor Joanne Charles, along with Transport Canada and B.C. Coroner’s Service officials, could not be reached by PAN’s deadline.

– with files from Alex Browne

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