An Amtrak train approaches tributes laid near the East Beach site where Anita Lewis (below) was struck and killed in July 2013. More than a year later

No coroner advice in White Rock train fatality

Headphones likely prevented Anita Lewis from hearing the approach of the passenger train that hit her, a coroner's report notes

The death of a woman on East Beach train tracks 14 months ago has been ruled accidental.

According to a long-awaited coroner’s report on the death of Anita Lewis, the 42-year-old who died of multiple blunt-force injuries suffered July 14, 2013 when she was struck by a passenger train as she jogged across the tracks at the pedestrian crossing in the 15600-block of Marine Drive.

In the report – released to Peace Arch News Tuesday – coroner Cynthia Wicks concludes Lewis likely didn’t notice the train until it was too late.

Video surveillance from the train shows Lewis looking west while approaching the tracks, the report notes; the train came from the east.

“It’s reasonable to conclude that Mrs. Lewis didn’t hear the train due to the fact that she was wearing headphones,” Wicks writes. “Mrs. Lewis was looking westbound and her baseball hat’s rim may have affected her peripheral vision, therefore it’s quite likely she never noticed the train until the last second.”

Noting Transport Canada had recently ordered that trains travelling “between dusk and dawn” blast their horns intermittently as a safety warning, Wicks made no recommendations. (The order now says from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the blasts are to be sounded repeatedly.)

Regarding the time it took to complete the report, B.C. Coroners’ Service spokesperson Barb McLintock said the service is “always the last out of the gate.”

“Some… require other agencies’ investigations to take place.”

In this case, those agencies included Transport Canada,  White Rock RCMP and the city.

Transport Canada’s review – shared within two months of the incident – 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 the City of White Rock and BNSF to conduct a joint review of train-whistling rules that restricted overnight whistling and other safeguards along the waterfront.

Efforts are ongoing to implement safety measures, and so far have included the addition of ‘look, listen, live’ and other signage; and fencing along the south and west sides of Bayview Park. Chainlink mesh is soon to be installed along the length of the handrailing; pedestrian crossings are to be levelled; and signal arms and lights will eventually be installed at key crossings.

Const. Shaileshni Molison said the police investigation – finding the death to be a “tragic accident” –  wrapped up in September 2013.

Regarding the 2½-month gap between the report’s completion and its release – it was signed July 9 – McLintock said the process is the same for all coroner reports: rigorous editing and quality assurance; then, release to the family for a couple of weeks before it goes public, to ensure they don’t learn about any findings in the media.

“So a couple of months lag time is about normal and means nothing,” McLintock said.

Immediately following Lewis’s death, McLintock attributed a delay in the release of information to limited staff and media inquiries into the death of actor Cory Monteith in Vancouver the day before. The cause of Monteith’s death was announced within days. The coroner’s report was signed Sept. 16 of that same year, and released two weeks later.



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