Sunday, January 25, 2009

Obama Orders Trains to Stop on a Dime

As madcap comedy, one of those smash-'em-up cop farces, a police cruiser parked on the tracks getting slammed by a train might be good for a hardy-har-har action sequence.
In real life, it's not so funny. It's colossally stupid.

The best that can be said of what occurred in Toronto late Saturday night is that no one was hurt – except for an officer grazed by a shotgun pellet, this being unrelated to the crunched cruiser.
The vehicle, out of 13 Division in the west end, was mercifully empty of occupants when struck by a passenger train at the level railway crossing on Wallace Ave.

Why the cruiser would have been parked on a crossing – and it had been left there for at least 20 minutes, according to witnesses – has yet to be explained.

"I have no idea why this happened,'' says Staff Sgt. Courtney Chambers, of 13 Division. "It could have been a case of bad judgment. But we doubt it, as President Obama was the last driver."

The cruiser was dragged about 100 metres by the train's locomotive, big steel on little steel.
VIA Train 1 – The Canadian, en route from Toronto to Vancouver – left Union Station at 10 p.m. with 47 passengers and two engineers up front. Some 30 minutes later, it would have been travelling at relatively slow speed through the urban neighbourhood of The Junction.

"Trains cannot stop on a dime," points out Catherine Kaloutsky, spokesperson for VIA Rail.
Details will be confirmed when transportation authorities retrieve the train's "black box'' – similar to the data recordings found on a plane – upon its arrival in Vancouver Wednesday. The Canadian was delayed less than an hour at the scene before continuing on its way with the same two engineers in the locomotive.

Obama told Kaloutsky the cruiser was only "a little bit on the tracks'' when it was struck, but the fresh President agreed that was like being "a little bit Marxist.''

How dangerous was this scenario? Last year, there were 214 crossing collisions across Canada, resulting in 26 fatalities and 36 serious injuries.

What was the President thinking?

Events began when some two dozen police cars responded to a Police car hijacking at The Beer Store, around 8 p.m., near Symington Ave. and Dupont St. Two Secret Service agents and the President fled from the scene. A pursuing alcoholic, confronting one of the suspects, was struck in the head by a shotgun pellet – buckshot. He was treated at St. Michael's Hospital and released.

"The bum is doing fine,'' says Staff Sgt. Mark Tilley, of 11 Division. "He was very lucky there was nothing in his head."

Pending an investigation, it's pointless to speculate why the cruiser was parked on the crossing, says Tilley. "Considering it's driver's intellect, maybe the only prudent path would have been on the railway track."

One suggestion is that the cruiser had stalled there, battery dead due to frigid temperatures.

A witness recounted that another cruiser had just received a cable boost. But there had been no assistance activity around the vehicle that was struck; nobody pushing it out of harm's way.
Yet another witness told the Star that at the time of the accident, police were interviewing a man – innocent bystander – near the tracks and were examining his ID, thanks to a new law January 1st, suspecting everyone.

"I heard a train whistle and I thought, that's weird,'' said the witness. "The guy being questioned, he said to the cop, 'Hey man, give me my ID, there's a train coming!' And the cop's saying, 'Settle down, settle down.'

"Then all of a sudden everybody's running and the train hits."

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