Mock Crash Delivers Sombre Message

SAINT JOHN - Three "victims" of a train/car crash at Reversing Falls were carried away in body bags and two went to hospital by ambulance. The sight of the body bags seemed to have the most impact on the 400 students from Harbour View High School who gathered to witness the response to a mock disaster Wednesday at the Douglas Avenue railway crossing.

As the Grade 11 and 12 students gathered around 9:30 a.m., just being out of class created a festive atmosphere, but the sombre message of the piece of street theatre started to sink in after police, fire and ambulance workers arrived with sirens blaring and lights flashing.

When the train backed away from the crossing students saw a car, smashed in on the passenger side, with five bodies inside. The arm of the front-seat passenger was hanging out the window, blood was splattered on the white paint of the door and smoke was coming from the engine.

The event was organized by Operation Lifesaver, a national group funded by Transport Canada to promote public safety around railway operations.

The scene was a graphic depiction of what could happen to a car and its passengers when a driver chooses to race a train through a railway crossing.

"About 100 people die each year in Canada from collisions with trains," said Dan Di Tota, national director of Operation Lifesaver.

Four drama students from the high school were in the car along with a crash test dummy, who was one of the "fatalities."

Rescue workers removed the four students first but one, the first fatality, had to lie under a blanket on the concrete sidewalk for about 15 minutes. Firefighters used power tools to cut the roof off the car to remove the final victim, who was the dummy.

"I hope this message lasts a lifetime," Mr. Di Tota told the students before the scene was revealed.

It took more than 30 minutes to remove everyone from the car. Ambulance attendants, police and firefighters worked together to place neck braces on the two survivors in the back seat before placing them on backboards.

One of the "victims," immobilized on the board with straps and blocks around his head, was wheeled around in front of the students before he was placed in the ambulance.

"Why are they doing that?" one student asked a friend.

"So you will think before you do that," her friend replied.

Photo: David Nickerson/New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal