Climb play structures, not trains!
There is nothing joyful about joy riding on a train. That was the lesson learned by a 14-year-old boy in the Niagara region this spring. Back in April, the boy and a bunch of his friends jumped on a slow-moving train in Fort Erie, Ontario. But what started out as an adventure quickly became a nightmare.
After less than a kilometre, the boy’s four friends jumped safely off the train as it began to pick up speed. The boy did not. He ended up taking a ride he will never forget—and one he was lucky to survive. As the train sped up to at least 80 kilometres an hour, the terrified boy clung to the side of the train for almost 30 minutes, all the time fearing he would fall off and be killed.
“He actually rode the train for about 10 miles. And while he was hanging off the side of the rail car, he was obviously scared and everything else, but he remembered that he had his cellphone and he called 9-1-1,” explains Gerry St. George, a constable with the CN Police in the Niagara Region.
Unfortunately, because of the background noise from the fast-moving train, the police dispatcher could neither understand him nor pinpoint his location. It was actually a train coming from the other direction that probably saved the boy’s life.
“He was very fortunate because another train passed on the track beside him, and the crew was alert enough to see the kid on the side of the train and call the crew on the other train to alert them. They came to a stop.”
Because the boy was a minor, he wasn’t charged or fined. But CN used the incident as an opportunity to teach other young people in the community about the hazards of trespassing on railway property.
The boy’s punishment was to write a speech about what happened, why it happened, and why he would never do it again. One of his four friends—the one who actually suggested they jump on the train in the first place—also wrote an essay about the experience.
“Based on this, we did an Operation Lifesaver presentation for their whole school [in Fort Erie],” says St. George. “I honestly think for the students, it made it real. It wasn't something they saw on TV or a commercial they heard over the air. It actually brought a sense of realism to it. I think it really, really hit home.”
St. George says that the boy and his four friends learned the hard way that trespassing on railway property isn’t just illegal, but potentially deadly. He hopes his close call will keep the 300+ students who took part in the presentation from ever thinking that train hopping is a fun thing to do.